More Food From Soil Science: The Natural Chemistry of Lime in Agriculture

Tiedjens, Victor A.

Original publication date: 1965
Original publisher: New York: Exposition Press
Publication status: Out of print

When Victor Tiedjens was a young agricultural advisor (1930s) the official story was that liming soil was done to counteract acidity. Tiedjens was asked to remedy soils with a slightly alkaline pH that wouldn’t grow any crops no matter how much fertilizer was applied. No one understood why this was happening. Tiedjens discovered that regardless of soil pH crops would not grow without plenty of calcium in their root zone. Potassium chloride (muriate of potash), a chemical fertilizer much used on vegetable crops, caused calcium to be leached and replaced with potassium. As this happened, soil pH increased, not decreased. The cure flew in the face of conventional thinking–spread what seemed at the time like irresponsibly large quantities of aglime on soils with slightly alkaline pH.

Not only did the soil recover, but crops on heavily limed soil needed much smaller quantities of fertilizer than conventional farming seemed to require. Aglime, being very inexpensive stuff, is probably the reason agricultural institutions (funded by agribusiness) do not mention Victor Tiedjens.

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