4 Steps to Identify and Manage Soil pH Issues

Something went wrong. Please try again later...
Emerging corn plants

All plants have an ideal pH range in which they thrive, enabling your customers to reach maximum yield potential. But when soil pH is out of the desired plant range, your customers may notice a myriad of yield-limiting factors — including drought stress, nitrogen deficiency and even reduced herbicide efficacy. 

“Nutrient levels in the soil may be sufficient for crop growth, but soil pH levels outside the optimal range may reduce the availability of certain nutrients, ultimately reducing crop growth and yield,” says Steve Cromley, retail product agronomist, Brevant® seeds.

Cromley says that the ideal pH range for corn and soybeans is around 6.0-7.0. This is the range in which most essential nutrients are available and microbial activity is sufficient for crop production.

“Our goal is to maintain soil pH levels within the optimal range if economically feasible or manage inputs to reduce plant stress if optimal levels are not attainable,” Cromley says.  

Here are four ways to help your customers better manage soil pH levels:

  1. Develop a good soil-sampling plan. 
    Most crop-growing regions have acidic soils and will require lime applications to increase soil pH to optimum levels. Soil-test results will help determine if a soil amendment is needed to adjust soil pH to optimum levels.

    Cromley recommends soil sampling at least every four years to monitor soil pH and nutrient levels. Because soil pH levels can vary substantially within a field, grid sampling is often recommended.

    This article from University of Nebraska Extension shares considerations and directions to implement a soil-sampling program.

  2. Choose hybrids and varieties that are tolerant to field conditions.
    Soil amendments are usually not economical for reducing soil pH on alkaline soils, so customers will want to select hybrids and varieties that are tolerant to present field conditions.

  3. Consider a Nutrient Maximizer to improve fertilizer efficiency.

    “Volatilization losses of surface-applied ammonia and ammonium-based nitrogen fertilizers such as urea and UAN can increase as soil pH levels increase and conditions are favorable for volatilization,” Cromley says. “The use of a urease inhibitor such as PinnitMax TG can reduce volatilization losses.”

    PinnitMax® TG nitrogen stabilizer works above ground to help applied nitrogen get to the root zone.

    “Denitrification rates of nitrogen can also be higher in alkaline soils compared to acidic soils,” Cromley says. The use of N-Serve® or Instinct NXTGEN® nitrogen stabilizers help retain nitrogen in the soil longer so it’s available when crops need it for maximum growth.

  4. Select appropriate herbicides.
    Soil pH can affect herbicide performance and longevity in the soil.

    “Triazine herbicides like Atrazine tend to be more acidic,” Cromley says. “They are more tightly bound in acidic soils, which can result in reduced weed control and increased risk of carryover in the wrong soil pH levels.”

    Consult the manufacturer’s herbicide label for specific guidance concerning soil pH levels.

“The goal of improving soil health is to enrich the environment in which the crops are growing while reducing soil loss and degradation,” Cromley says. Learn more about the solutions available to improve nutrient availability throughout the growing season by visiting NutrientMaximizers.com.

Atrazine is a Restricted Use Pesticide. Instinct NXTGEN® and PinnitMax® TG are not registered for sale or use in all states. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is registered for sale or use in your state. Do not fall-apply anhydrous ammonia south of Highway 16 in the state of Illinois. Always read and follow label directions.