CHICAGO — Ohio and Indiana farmers wishing to use gypsum to improve soil quality now have access to technical information and possible financial assistance through their local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office.
State NRCS technical staffs in the two states recently adopted an interim practice standard providing guidelines for how gypsum can be incorporated as part of various conservation programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
The interim standard is being adopted on a trial basis while a national standard is being developed.
Many Ohio and Indiana farmers have experimented with gypsum as a source of crop nutrients, and as a tool to increase water infiltration, decrease erosion, expand rooting and reduce nutrient losses.
Gypsum contains about 20 percent calcium and 16 percent sulfur in sulfate form on a dry matter basis, however nutrient values vary depending on the specific source of the product.
Beyond providing nutrients, soil scientists have observed gypsum can improve the physical properties of certain soils, particularly those with high clay content, according to Ron Chamberlain, lead agronomist and director of research for the GYPSOIL division of Beneficial Reuse Management.
The calcium in gypsum helps to build soil aggregates and create pore spaces within the soil profile, he added.
GYPSOIL sells gypsum to farmers in 21 states in the Midwest, Mid-South and Southeast.
New interim standard
The new interim practice standard, Amending Soil Properties with Gypsiferous Products (Code 801), lists four distinct conservation purposes for gypsum applications, including:
- Improve soil health by increasing infiltration and improving physical/chemical properties of soil;
- Improve surface water quality by reducing dissolved phosphorus concentrations in surface runoff and subsurface drainage;
- Ameliorate subsoil aluminum toxicity;
- Improve water quality by reducing the potential for pathogens transport and other contaminant transport from areas of manure and biosolids application.
The standard stipulates qualified gypsum applications must be used to alter the physical or chemical characteristics of soil to help achieve one of the purposes.
The practice does not apply to soils with cation exchange capacity (CEC) of less than five, soils with pH of less than 5.8, soils with extractable magnesium less than 200 lbs/acre or soils used for organic production.
In addition to technical information, the new standard spells out NRCS financial assistance options for gypsum applications. In Ohio, approved growers are eligible to apply to receive approximately $21 to $36 per acre depending on the application rate. Minorities and veterans are eligible for additional incentives.
“An interim standard is put in place for a new conservation practice and used generally for three to five years, during which time the practice will be evaluated,” said Chris Coulon, public affairs specialist for Ohio NRCS.
Western Lake Erie
For Ohio growers who operate in the Western Lake Erie Basin watershed, additional incentives may also be available through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program grants as part of the Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin Phosphorus Reduction Initiative.
For more information about using gypsum as part of on-farm conservation programs, visit your local Ohio NRCS office.
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