by Understanding Nutrient Availability
When You are Sitting on Gold but Can’t Reach It
If you ever watched the show The Curse of Oak Island, you’ll know the premise. There is supposed great treasure buried beneath the island that is imprisoned under layers and layers of soil, rock, and flooded chambers. The team digs and explores but are never able to get to the treasure beneath. Obstacles come up that seem to keep pushing them back from their goal. They just can’t reach the treasure to unlock all its riches.
The same is true for the soil in your fields. There are nutrients there that can nourish your crop and push it to new levels of yield. The problem is the crops can’t utilize these nutrients. They’re tied up in the soil and cannot be released. Yet there is a second issue, do you even have the nutrients in the soil to unlock?
Soil fertility is the foundation of crop potential. Soil nutrients provide the essential elements necessary for plant growth and development. However, sometimes these nutrients can be locked in the soil and become unavailable to plants, hindering their growth and productivity.
This phenomenon is a common occurrence in many agricultural soils, and understanding it is essential to unlock the full potential of your land. In this blog post, we’ll explore what soil lockout is, how to unlock the potential of your soil, and how soil tests utilizing the Albrecht model can help.
What is the Albrect Model
Developed by soil scientist Dr. William A. Albrecht, this model considers the interactions between soil, plants, and the environment, and aims to support healthy plant growth and reduce the likelihood of pests and diseases.
Soil testing using the Albrecht model allows farmers to have a treasure map, so to speak, on how they can unlock the potential of their soil and achieve higher yields or get their land back to producing what it did before. With the Albrecht model, farmers can determine the correct balance of minerals in the soil, identify the cause of nutrient lockout, and take corrective measures.
What is Soil Lockout
Soil lockout occurs when essential plant nutrients become bound and unavailable in the soil, preventing them from being absorbed by plants. There are several reasons why nutrients can get locked in the soil.
- Excess levels of certain nutrients,
- imbalanced pH levels, and
- soil compaction
- chelation with clay
can all contribute to soil lockout.
When essential plant nutrients become bound in the soil, they become unavailable to plants, and their growth and productivity can be stunted.
To understand how to unlock soil potential, it’s essential to know what nutrients get locked in the soil and how they get unlocked. Nutrient lockout can occur with any essential plant nutrient, but two of the most common are nitrogen and phosphorus.
Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plant growth and is a vital component of DNA and ATP, the energy molecule in cells. However, phosphorus can get locked in the soil when it binds with other elements like iron, aluminum, calcium, and magnesium.
Nitrogen, another essential nutrient, can also get locked in the soil when it binds with organic matter or becomes converted to an unavailable form like gas that becomes lost and can’t get back. (ex: Nitrite when soils becomes anaerobic)
Unlocking Soil Potential
The good news is that there are ways to unlock the nutrients trapped in your soil. The key is to identify the cause of the lockout and take corrective measures.
One of the primary factors contributing to nutrient lockout is excess levels of certain nutrients, particularly phosphorus and potassium. These elements can bind with other nutrients like calcium and magnesium, making them unavailable to plants.
To unlock these nutrients, most fertilizers for this phase contain high amounts of phosphorus and potassium. However, it should be said that adding excessive amounts of potassium and calcium can cause magnesium lockout.
Another way to unlock soil potential is to consider the availability of micronutrients in soils. Micronutrients are essential nutrients that plants need in small amounts. They are often lost due to water runoff and require re-mineralization to make them available to plants and soil life. Without these micronutrients, plants may be inefficient users of available nutrients, water, atmospheric oxygen and nitrogen, and trace minerals.
Moreover, clay-based soils are often rich in micronutrients but low in nitrogen due to adhesion, a macronutrient necessary for plant growth. The use of fertilizers during this phase is crucial, and it is essential to choose the right type of fertilizer that contains high levels of phosphorus and potassium.
Soil Tests and the Albrecht Model
Soil testing is a critical step in unlocking the potential of your soil. It provides crucial information on the soil’s nutrient balance and pH levels. However, while soil tests are a great tool, they don’t always tell the full story of soil nutrient availability.
Soil tests indicate the amount of nutrients in the soil, but they don’t indicate how much of those nutrients are available to plants.
One model that can help farmers unlock the potential of their soil is the Albrecht model. The Albrecht model is based on the principle that each plant has a unique mineral requirement that is necessary for optimal growth and development.
The Albrecht model analyzes the soil’s mineral balance and determines the soil’s optimum pH level, providing a more comprehensive approach to soil testing. By identifying the mineral imbalances in the soil and correcting them, the Albrecht model helps unlock the potential of the soil, leading to higher yields and healthier plants.
Gauging the amount of available phosphorus for plants can be a difficult task. Although soil tests are a useful tool, they may not provide a complete picture of the phosphorus content. Despite a soil test indicating high levels of phosphorus, plants may still be unable to access sufficient amounts of it due to changes in soil pH levels.
Binding and Chelating
The binding element for phosphorus also changes as the pH level varies, with iron and aluminum binding at lower pH levels, and calcium at higher pH levels. You can compare the presence of phosphorus in soil to a bank account where up to 80% of applied phosphorus can be rapidly bound and tied up by elements like iron, calcium, and aluminum, rendering it unavailable for plant uptake. As a result, farmers can only use about 20% of their phosphorus, and once it has been utilized by the crops, it’s as if the account is empty.
Banding and chelating are two methods that farmers may use, in order to try to unlock nutrients trapped in their soil. Banding is a method of application that places the nutrient below the surface of the soil but near the seeds or seedling plantings, making the fertilizer more available to the plants than to weeds.
Chelating agents, on the other hand, are additives that create strong bonds to the aluminum, iron, and calcium and reduce the potential for those metals to bind to phosphorus.
The key is knowing what is in your soil, what nutrients are locked and the formula to unleash the potential in your soil.
To sum it up
Ultimately, unlocking the full potential of your soil is essential for high yields and healthy crops. Understanding what soil lockout is, identifying which nutrients are locked in, and taking corrective measures through soil testing and the use of the Albrecht model can help achieve optimal crop yields and promote healthy plant growth. By understanding and correcting soil lockout, farmers can ensure that their soil is fertile, healthy, and able to produce high-quality crops for years to come.
We use the Albrecht Model in for our Soil Testing Services. Give us a call today or sign up for your field to be tested to see what nutrients are locked in your ground.