Calcium in the Soil
Calcium has four basic functions in the soil which help to create better soil structure and healthy plants.
by Jim Halbeisen
Calcium is an alkaline metal of Group II A on the periodic chart and is the fifth most abundant element in the earth's crust while being widely distributed in nature. The electronic structure of the calcium cation makes it a unique element that is ideally suited to assist in plant growth.
In the soil environment the calcium cation serves four basic functions that are critical to agricultural production.
1. In agricultural soils the calcium cation flocculates clay and organic matter particles which results in proper soil porosity. Proper soil porosity insures adequate soil aeration which guarantees proper soil drainage and allows correct root growth.
2. Soil biological life is the key to profitable plant nutrition and that biological life has a definite need for the element calcium. The beneficial biology of the soil complex are aerobic by nature and respond very favorably to the porosity of the soil complex which is provided by the flocculation of the exchange complex by the calcium cation. Also, soil biology feeds very heavily on available calcium in soil to supply the needs of their bodily functions.
3. All agricultural plants have a specific need for calcium in their tissue to insure proper growth. Many research studies have proven that animals consuming plants that have calcium deficiencies will encounter growth problems that may result in long term production losses.
4. The ability of calcium to neutralize either excess acid or excess alkaline, amphoterism, in the soil environment is the key to proper root growth of the plant. Without proper root growth plants are susceptible to drought and improper mineral nutrition.
Research published in Soil Science in 1931 by K. K. Gedroiz stated that:
"After the practically complete replacement from the soil of all exchangeable calcium, the plants required for their development the introduction into the soil of calcium fertilization, without which they would not grow at all."
The need for calcium in agricultural soil has been scientifically proven for many years. The proper levels of calcium need in soils has been questioned by those that benefit from its deficiency in soil. However, future basic nutritional research will demonstrate the lack of adequate calcium levels in modern agricultural soils.