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.
Ag scientists are providing new information on using natural inputs like calcium to get better results.
“Calcium kicks soil into high gear,” says Leroy Stuecker, a Midwestern BioAg customer who farms in Lee County, Iowa. Here’s why.
1. Calcium for Healthy Soil
“Calcium is key to good soil structure,” says Firman Hershberger, a Midwestern BioAg Sales Consultant 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 improve soil structure, 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 plant, so a continuous supply is essential.
2. Calcium for Nutrient Uptake
“I call calcium the trucker of all nutrients,” says Midwestern BioAg Sales Consultant Josh Elsing. “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 for Early Season Growth
Calcium leads to greater root mass and faster, better growth in spring. It also helps promote plant uniformity, a key factor among row crop and forage growers.
“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 for Healthy 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 utilization.
Soils need calcium. But plants need available calcium. This means farmers need two types of calcium — slow release and soluble.
According to Hershberger, Midwestern BioAg’s 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 for 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 instead of hollow-stemmed. We want it to be filled out with nutrients,” says Hershberger.
6. Calcium for Higher Yields & Profit
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.”