Fall Lime Application

Katelyn Miller, Field Crops and Forage Specialist
Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Program

November 20, 2023

Why apply lime in the fall?

A large benefit of applying lime in the fall is time. When spring rolls around, farmers are busy catching up. Between working fields, planting crops, harvesting 1st cutting, etcetera, time becomes scarce. When wet springs occur, getting everything done becomes even more of a challenge. Applying lime during a wet season can increase risk of compaction, creating the possible chance of more passes being necessary with tillage implements. With highly erodible fields, be cautious of your timing in relation to precipitation to ensure you're getting the most out of your lime. Another benefit is increased reaction time in the soil. A good rule of thumb is to apply lime 6 months before the desired pH for your crop is needed, therefore, applying lime in the fall creates ample time for your desired pH to occur.

Why is lime important?

Lime increases the pH of the soil, making it an important part of crop management. The pH level in your soil has an impact on nutrient availability in plants (see picture), nitrogen fixation in legumes, plant health and root growth. Crops have different required pH levels (see chart) making proper management essential to a strong crop. Inadequate pH will create a weaker crop because of poor growth, in turn reducing water intake, and make nutrients less available to the plant, creating possible deficiencies. To help avoid these problems, it is recommended to soil test approximately every three years to ensure that pH levels are appropriate for the crop you are growing.

How does tillage system impact lime results?

In a conventional tillage system, lime will get incorporated into the soil causing it to react faster. This is not the case with no-till, where pH needs to be closely monitored for changes because lime is only being applied to the surface. Due to this, there can also be pH differences among soil layers making close management key to a successful liming program.

Additional resources are available here:

Soil pH for Field Crops: Cornell University Nutrient Management Spear Program

http://nmsp.cals.cornell.edu/N...

Timing of Lime Application for Field Crops: Cornell University Nutrient Management Spear Program

http://nmsp.cals.cornell.edu/p...

Winter Limestone Application: Penn State Extension

https://extension.psu.edu/wint...




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