Calcium Inputs for Soil Quality Improvement

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2003: $102,771.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Bernard Knezek
Michigan State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn, soybeans, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, technical assistance
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization, wetlands
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: public participation


    Studies were established in five corn-soybean fields in east central Michigan to evaluate the potential benefits of lime and gypsum on soil quality factors and crop production at a large scale. Soil quality measurements included soil bulk density, aggregate stability, infiltration rate and calcium:magnesium ratio. Lime was applied in two fields at 0, 2, 4 or 8 tons per acre. Gypsum was applied in three fields at 0, 700, 1400 or 2800 pounds per acre. Lime application improved soil pH, soil calcium and Ca:Mg ratio, but had little effect on bulk density, infiltration. Aggregate stability was improved in 2 of 3 sampling years. In 3 of the 6 site-years, lime application improved corn or soybean yield. Gypsum application resulted in no to modest increase in Ca:Mg ratio, no effect on soil pH, soil bulk density or infiltration rate, and no effect on corn or soybean yield in 8 site-years. Lime application showed potential for long-term economic benefit. Gypsum application resulted in a negative economic effect due to the cost of the material and spreading without any yield increase.


    Interest in the use of calcium from lime or gypsum to improve soil quality has increased in recent years. Use of gypsum has been shown to be highly effective in improving soil aggregation and permeability in high sodium soils in western parts of the United States. Those conditions do not exist in soils of the Great Lakes region. However, there is some concern that a narrow calcium : magnesium ratio may also contribute to reduced soil aggregate stability and soil permeability. Numerous studies in region have documented that maximum crop years can be produced over a wide range of calcium : magnesium ratios. Despite these findings calcium is being promoted to improve soil quality, especially soil aggregation and permeability. This project was initiated to evaluate the effects of lime and gypsum soil quality factors and yield when applied to farm fields in east-central Michigan.

    Project objectives:

    Demonstrate the effects of calcium amendments on soil quality and corn/ soybean yields.

    Establish a database for advising farmers regarding the benefits of using calcium soil amendments.

    Facilitate measurement of soil quality factors in farmer-initiated field experiments with calcium amendments.

    Establish a total of six farmer cooperator fields with calcium treatments for intensive study of effects on soil quality properties and corn yield.

    Provide advice and yield analysis for other farmer-managed lime/gypsum demonstration sites in Mid-Michigan.

    Enhanced awareness of the effects of calcium, lime and gypsum in soil quality.

    Enhanced awareness of soil and watershed quality issues.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.