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20.09.2018 - Martin Schneider (Send email to Martin Schneider)

How you can earn 50 EUR/ha with a little thought when liming!

How you can earn 50 EUR/ha with a little thought when liming!

Lime is a good and well-tried resource. It contributes to the long-term preservation of soil fertility and ensures reliable yields, especially under environmental and weather stress. That much for the theory. In the field, unfortunately, lime is still far too often overused. Consequently, sub-optimal pH values predominate in many places, which has a negative effect on the profitability of the farm. Setting the optimum pH value in the fields and down to the subplot is not rocket science.

Lime - the basis for soil fertility

It has been known for many centuries that lime stabilizes the soil structure. It improves the air and water supply in the soil and the plant availability of phosphorus, potash and other nutrients. However, despite the many positive properties of lime, some farms attach little importance to it. They shy away from the effort of exact lime planning and instead apply it either on the wrong fields or only in constant quantities. By dispensing with field-specific spreading maps, the soil is not used as required. Optimum pH values cannot be achieved in this way. The plants react to this with the corresponding lower yields.

Less than half of the floors at optimum

In the past four years we have analyzed around 700,000 ha in Germany. Almost all farms whitewash their land, but a closer look at the pH content classes is sobering: the optimum content class C can be determined on only 43 % of the land (see Fig. 1). One fifth (19%) is acidified (grades A- to B+) and 13% of the soils are too alkaline (grade E). According to this, the majority of the areas are not in the optimum condition.


Figure 1

Loss of income of EUR 45-50 per hectare

The effects of suboptimal pH values become clear when we take a closer look at economic indicators: Let us assume that on the areas of a 1,000 ha farm comparable variances in the salary classes can be found as on the 700,000 ha we sampled. In this example, 190 ha then have too low pH values and 130 ha high pH values (grade E). On average, yield losses of 12% are to be expected even for less sensitive crops such as wheat, corn and potatoes on the "acidic" areas. For sensitive crops such as rapeseed, corn, winter barley and field bean, this is already 20-25%.  With the clearly too high pH values, around 5% less is harvested. Accordingly, the average yield loss of our farm is at least 3%. If, in our example, winter wheat, winter rape or corn is cultivated on the 1,000 ha, a loss of revenue of around € 50 per ha is incurred (Table 1).

Table 1
Crop yield dt/ha value EUR/dt yield loss  dt/ha incurred loss EUR/ha
winter wheat 80 19 2,35 46
winter rape 40 38 1,17 46
grain maize 500 3,5 14,7 53


How can losses of income and revenue be avoided?

It has already become clear that hardly any field in Germany has neither uniform soil conditions nor uniform pH values. Constant liming is therefore not very efficient. As can be seen in Fig. 2, all pH content classes can be found on the fields of a farm. Even within one field up to three different classes can occur. Therefore, different amounts of lime are required on the sub-area in order to supply the soil with lime in an optimal way: sub-areas of content class A require a healthy lime (which has absolute priority over other fertilization measures) according to VDLUFA. Content class B must be limed up, for content class C a preservation lime is sufficient. If grade E prevails, the spreading of lime should be avoided.


Figure 2

Adjusting the optimum pH value is not rocket science

Many of our customers have already been able to benefit from the effectiveness of sub-area-specific liming. We proceed in two steps: The first step is to determine the soil heterogeneity. By measuring the electrical conductivity with the soil scanner we get a first impression of relative differences in the soil. The results are detailed soil zone maps. These are the basis for GPS-supported soil sampling, the second part of the soil inventory. Here, individual mixed samples are taken in defined zones and analyzed. The results of the soil analysis are nutrient distribution maps, e.g. for lime. You can see the complete procedure in this video. 

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Lime is an indispensable operating resource. However it must be spread on specific areas of land so that it can ensure optimum pH values over a wide area. The costs for the sampling of the areas, the lime as well as its application are incurred anyway. If it is now only applied according to requirements, the proceeds per hectare increase by 50 EUR - every year! Since all other expenses are incurred anyway and the costs for fertilization planning are only marginal, the profit (!) of the farm also increases by about 50 €/ha. We can guarantee you that our procedure will bring 90% of your land into salary class C within the shortest possible time, thus increasing profitability and profits.

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