With farmers searching for new ways to increase yields, they’re looking more closely at nutrients and minerals.
Gone are the days when it was all about N-P-K. Today, growers are learning how to enhance fertilizer performance, soil health and plant nutrition.
Soil and plant scientists are providing new information on using natural inputs, like calcium, to get better results.
“Calcium kicks the soil into high gear,” says Leroy Stuecker, who farms in Lee County, Iowa. Here’s why.
1. Calcium is a building block of healthy soil
“Calcium is key to good soil structure,” says Firman Hershberger, a Sales Consultant at Midwestern BioAg who is based in Kalona, Iowa. “It plays an important part in regulating acidity, or pH.”
Hershberger, who consults with Stuecker, explains that the optimum amount of calcium helps bridge particles in the soil, creating the healthy, aerated soil farmers want. “It opens up the soil, allowing water to be better absorbed, helping other nutrients to be more available and reducing erosion,” he says.
However, calcium is not mobile in the soil, so a continuous supply is essential.
2. Calcium helps with nutrient uptake
“I call calcium the trucker of all nutrients,” says Sales Consultant Josh Elsing of Midwestern BioAg. “It takes the nutrients up into the plant where they need to go.”
Calcium enters the plant via water moving from the roots through the leaves. A good calcium source is a catalyst for helping everything else in your program move forward.
Hershberger says, “Farmers using Bio-Cal see better stalk strength in corn. That’s because of that nutrient uptake.”
3. Calcium helps with early season growth and uniformity
Calcium leads to greater root mass and faster, better growth in spring.
“They say when corn is in its early stages, you want it to never have a bad day,” Hershberger says. “Calcium helps with that – even early on, you can see uniformity and strong growth.”
Stuecker says, “We usually apply Bio-Cal in the fall. We see really good results with that. It seems to get our soils activated.”
4. Calcium is abundant in plant tissue
Without going deep into plant biology, growers should know calcium is a component of cell walls, and is important for cell division, permeability of cell membranes and nitrogen metabolism.
Soils need calcium. But plants need available calcium. This means farmers need two types of calcium – slow release and soluble.
According to Hershberger, one of Midwestern BioAg’s products, Bio-Cal, provides five calcium sources ranging from soluble to time-released. It also contains sulfur, which helps with nitrogen efficiency and turning organic matter into humus.
5. Calcium helps make more nutritious forages
In addition to cropping corn, Stuecker specializes in growing high-quality alfalfa. He sells it as feed for high-end Holsteins producing over 90 pounds of milk per day.
“They’re very particular about hay for these cows,” says Stuecker. “The soil and the hay are both tested so the rations can be fine-tuned. Bio-Cal helps make my alfalfa more nutritious.”
“Bio-Cal helps make solid-stemmed alfalfa,” says Hershberger, “instead of hollow-stemmed. We want it to be filled out with nutrients.”
6. Calcium can be a stepping stone to higher yields in crops and more profit per cow per acre in dairy
Stuecker is a firm believer in calcium, and in working with a crop consultant. “Firman has been a big help to me,” says Stuecker. “With his expertise, we combine Bio-Cal with testing and fertilizer from Midwestern BioAg, and it’s a very good program.”
“That’s why my yields are coming up over the last seven years,” he says. “We’re up to 256 to 263 bushels of corn on some fields. With alfalfa, quality is the name of the game,” says Stuecker. “Bio-Cal is the foundation of my program.”
To learn more about Midwestern BioAg, visit FarmToYourFullPotential.com.