I know pH is low on one farm I rent. The most recent soil samples were done on 3-acre grids by a fertilizer dealer three years ago. What is my best plan to prevent low pH from costing me money next year? Remember, this is a rented farm.
Consultants often get questions like this one this time of year. Offering answers for the Indiana certified crop adviser panel are Betsy Bower, agronomist, Ceres Solutions, Terre Haute; Jamie Bultemeier, agronomist and corporate sales director for A&L Great Lakes Labs, Fort Wayne; and Steve Gauck, sales agronomist for Beck’s, Greensburg.
Bower: Apply any amount of lime that you can afford! And apply it this fall if you can. If the contract renewal is year to year and that happens in the spring, apply as soon as you can after contract renewal to get the most bang for the buck. I know it’s a rented farm, but you still need to produce bushels, right? Lime likely will allow you to get more bushels of soybeans and corn, depending on how low the pH is in that field. Corn can withstand lower soil pH levels and still produce relatively well. But if you know it is low, apply what you can. Even 1 ton per acre of quality lime will go a long way toward improved nutrient uptake, helping soybean nodules work more efficiently and better weed control. You will likely see other benefits as well.
Bultemeier: Managing low soil pH on rented ground will vary based on the rental agreement. Soil pH has a direct impact on the value of the land. In some cases, the cost of soil pH management is covered by the landowner. In multiple-year rental agreements, the cost of lime can be a shared expense, given that the renter will gain benefit of the lime over the term of the contract. Soil pH management is a multiyear process. In most areas of Indiana, ag lime applications are required every three to six years.
If you have an annually renewing contract and the landowner is not covering the cost of soil pH management, annual fall applications of pelletized lime can be effective in short-term maintenance of soil pH. But using pelletized lime may have a higher long-term cost. In longer-term leases where the cost of lime is covered by the landowner, the best option would be a traditional ag lime application, which has a multiyear benefit.
Gauck: Low pH can cause a range of issues, from nutrient uptake to herbicide weed control. If you plan to rent this farm long term, I would encourage you to talk to the landlord about the long-term benefits of liming his farms. If he is not interested in liming, I would look at trying to get a longer-term contract in which you would lime the farm. If you’re in a short-term contract, then I would at least apply a pelletized or liquid lime. They can change pH quickly, but they will only maintain it for a short time. Low pH is a high priority for me to get fixed to increase yields.