Back in 1976, citrus farmers in southern Belize were in need of agricultural lime (ag lime or white lime) in order to improve the pH levels in their soils. As result of numerous tests being done in limestone deposits in the Spanish Lookout area, Mr. Abraham L. Dueck discovered high quality lime that has come to benefit the farming industry tremendously over the years. Forty years later, the company he started is still in business, managed by his son Milton; Limbe delivers its agricultural lime to a host of farmers, including citrus, banana, corn, teak, and many others. It is also widely used in the aquaculture industry.
Agricultural lime, or white lime, is essential to soil because it increases the soil’s pH, which results in more nutrients being available to crops. The following chart shows that the most nutrients are available to soil with a pH range between 6.5 and 7.5 although iron is on the low end of the pH value and potassium, sulphur, and molybdenum are readily available to a pH of 10.
Neal Kinsey of Kinsey Agricultural Services, Inc. specializes in analyzing soil samples and making recommendations on what to do to grow the best crops on those soils. After testing soils from over 65 different countries around the world, Neal Kinsey states: “One of the major limiting factors in farming is that of understanding calcium: when it’s necessary, how much to use, and what that will do for the crop – not just in terms of yield, although it can make a big difference in yield, but also in terms of nutrient values as well.”
Although fertilizers are often marketed as “all you need to have a high quality crop”, research is now showing that fertilizers are second to having adequate amounts of calcium and magnesium. Neal Kinsey explains: “Calcium is necessary to get every other nutrient into the plant. If we don’t have enough calcium it takes more nitrogen to do the same job, it takes more phosphorous to do the same job, it takes more potassium to do the same job, it takes more of all the trace elements to do the same job. So calcium is the doorman; it’s the element that needs to be in the soil to open the door to get all the other elements into the plant. If we don’t have enough calcium, it takes more fertilizer to grow the same crop.”
As you can see, calcium is vital to have in your soil, so that all other nutrients can be taken up. Additionally, having the right balance of calcium and magnesium will:
- Cause crops to be much more resistant to all types of diseases.
- Enhance the effectiveness of herbicides.
- Improve water penetration of the soil.
- Promote root development and plant growth.
- Lower toxic levels of aluminum, manganese, and iron.
- Cause citrus to be more resistant to greening and other diseases.
- Ensure your crops have enough calcium and other vitamins in your final product.
- And much more…
Neal Kinsey has also stated: “Limestone is the most under-valued material that makes a difference in terms of production for agriculture in the world. Not just under-valued in terms of price but also under-valued in terms of what it will do for you. Because until you get the calcium right, you don’t have the potential to get the right yield.”
The only way to determine how much lime you need is to do a soil test. Unfortunately, every soil is different. To fully know what your soil needs, you need a thorough soil analysis that not only tests for pH but also how much calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium is in your soil. All of these affect the pH on your soils. In many cases, the pH level is ok, even though the calcium is deficient; the reason that the pH is ok is the magnesium is too high. In that case, lime that is high in calcium, or calcitic lime, must be applied, since calcium brings the magnesium level down.
Limbe provides a few different types of lime: lime that has a balance of calcium and magnesium, lime that is calcitic, or very high in calcium and very low in magnesium, and lime that is high in magnesium. Every year we take numerous tests to make sure we provide our customers with the optimum lime for their specific needs to produce the greatest yield and most nutritious crop. Limbe’s lime also provides the advantage of long-term slow release to the soil. It takes from 3 to 4 years until the lime is fully integrated into the soil; therefore, the most benefits of the lime will not be realized until the second or third year of application.
There is an understanding in the farming community in Belize, that fertilizers and lime cannot be applied at the same time. But according to Neil Kinsey, this does not matter with good soil fertility management including a base saturation of calcium and magnesium = 80%. Once you know what nutrients are in your soil, it can be determined what type of lime you need.
Applying the lime is very easy, since Limbe provides spreaders to spread the lime.
Check out our website at www.limbebz.com, where you can see interviews with Mr. Neil Kinsey and our customers and a variety of other information on agricultural lime and its benefits.