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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The correct pH levels are essential to ensuring healthy pastures,
and fall and winter are the right seasons to combat soil acidity, said Dirk Philipp,
assistant professor for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
“In parts of Arkansas, pH of pastures can easily be 5.5 or even lower,” he said. “Soils
become acidic over time when the alkaline cations, such as calcium, magnesium, or
sodium leach out and are replaced with hydrogen, an acidic cation.”
Philipp said that when the pH sinks below 5.5, nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus,
and potassium become less available to plants, and the effectiveness of fertilizer
At lower levels, phosphorus can bind with aluminum, keeping the plant from absorbing
the phosphorus. Overall fertilizer efficiency is reduced at lower pH levels. Many
forage species, notably legumes, are sensitive to acidic soils and those same low
pH levels can favor weeds.
Ideally, a neutral pH is the best bet for pasture plants. “Phosphorus is most available
to plants when the soil pH is between 6.0 and 7.0,” he said.
Soil tests, taken every other year, will enable growers to know their pasture’s pH.
Growers should keep in mind that “if soil tests call for increasing the pH, it will
take at least six months or even longer to elevate the pH,” Philipp said.
What lime to use?
In terms of lime sources, dolomitic lime contains more magnesium and may be used if
magnesium concentrations in the soil need to be corrected. On the other hand, if magnesium
isn’t a problem, then calcitic lime sources work as well, he said.
When it comes to application principles, growers need to keep this in mind:
How frequently should lime be applied?
Philipp said if soil is tested regularly, the test reports will tell whether to apply
lime or not, and says attention should be paid to the cation exchange capacity, or
“In a soil with less CEC, it should take less lime to correct pH but lime has to be
applied more often,” he said. “In a soil with high CEC, larger quantities of lime
may be required to correct the pH, but the pH will stay in the desired range much
If you would like more information on forages or livestock contact your county extension
office or visit us online at www.uaex.uada.edu.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons
regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin,
religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any
other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
By Mary HightowerThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) 671-2126