Findings from an alfalfa fertility study show Midwestern BioAg’s Bio-Cal® can increase forage yields by 10.7 percent when used in combination with a conventional alfalfa fertility program. The study is conducted in partnership with the independent Great Lakes Agricultural Research Service in Delavan, Wisconsin, and will run for an additional two years to track long-term yield performance and soil health benefits.
“Bio-Cal is time tested and field proven,” said Iowa-based Midwestern BioAg sales consultant Firman Hershberger. “Growers have applied this product for over 20 years in my region with positive results. We expected to see good results from this study, but we’re very impressed by the 10 percent yield increase. This shows that Bio-Cal can benefit any farm’s program, regardless of what fertilizer supplier they work with.”
The Bio-Cal study was replicated across 42 plots seeded with Midwestern BioAg’s WinterKing™ III alfalfa and a wheat nurse crop. In the establishment year on plots where calcium was added to the conventional fertilizer recommendations as part of the treatment, either Bio-Cal or a synthetic gypsum product was applied at a rate of 1,000 lbs. per acre. The conventional fertility program for the alfalfa was based on soil test results and included potassium chloride (0-0-60) at 208 lbs./acre, and diammonium phosphate (DAP) at 65 lbs./acre.
In both treatments, application of additional calcium improved yields over the conventional fertilizer program alone and the control. However, Bio-Cal outperformed the synthetic gypsum product with an average yield advantage of 3.7 percent, or 0.14 TDW. The 2016 results, reflecting two cuttings from the establishment year, are summarized in the Table 1.
“There are many calcium products on the market today,” said Hershberger. “We’ve heard quite a bit about some of the synthetic gypsum products available, but questioned the plant availability of nutrients in the product. This study confirms what we’ve said at Midwestern BioAg for over 30 years — fertilizer value is about much more than the numbers on the tag. It’s about nutrient availability, and more importantly, results.”
Manufactured exclusively by Midwestern BioAg in their Buffalo, Iowa, facility, Bio-Cal is a blend of multiple calcium sources that are available both upon application and later in the growing season. As a liming material, it contains 32 percent calcium and can be applied to all major crops to supplement the traditional NPK programs seen on most farms.
Bio-Cal can be applied in the spring or fall, or following cutting. Other benefits include improved forage quality, better soil structure and health, and increased winter hardiness.
Calcium Supports Plant Health, Yield
Like sulfur and magnesium, calcium is an essential secondary crop nutrient required to support productive cropping systems. It plays a key role in cell wall formation and also supports plant uptake of other important nutrients such as phosphorus, boron and sulfur. Calcium also promotes healthy soil structure by loosening soils and stabilizing organic matter, which increases soil water- and nutrient-holding capacity.
“Calcium is needed by all crops to support plant growth, but it plays a particularly important role in forage production,” said Hershberger. “Alfalfa production can remove over 100 pounds of calcium per acre per year, so calcium deficiency can be a common and serious yield-limiting factor on many Midwestern farms. This is why I recommend all my alfalfa growers apply Bio-Cal to their fields. It enhances every other part of their program.”