Many times when we think of calcium applications we think of soil amendments to buffer pH with lime or to help water penetration issues with gypsum. However, there are several opportunities to positively impact crop yields and quality with calcium mineral nutrition. Plant available calcium nutrition is one of the best ways to increase crop yield potential.
Plants take up nutrients in the ionic form, for calcium it is Ca++. Most fertilizer when applied will be in compound form, meaning calcium with another element. CaSO4 or gypsum is one of many examples. When applying calcium we need to consider the other elements in the compound with calcium – do we need it or will it be beneficial to plant growth?
We should include calcium inputs with root development opportunities. On annual crops, we should start at the earliest soil exposure with seed or transplants. On perennial crops, we have 2 root flush events, one in spring as soil temps warm and one post harvest.
We know that calcium is also very beneficial for cell wall integrity. This application can lead to stronger plants during times of environmental oxidative stress.
Finally, let's not forget the reproductive tissue growth requirements of calcium. We can positively impact crop storage and quality with calcium nutrition during cell division.
Make sure calcium nutrition is part of your overall plant nutrition program.