Alfalfa growth on acid soil as influenced by Al, Ca, pH and Mo
Rechcigl, John E
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Soil acidity is a major cause of low yields of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) in the southeastern United States. Two field experiments were conducted on an Ernest silt loam soil (fine—loamy, mixed, mesic Aquic Fragiudult) to determine what conditions are necessary for optimal alfalfa growth in an acid soil environment. In the first experiment alfalfa was no—till planted to evaluate the influence of surface applied dolomitic limestone at 0 and 6.7 Mg/ha either 8 or 20 months before planting and at planting on alfalfa performance under acidic conditions. Yield increases, greater than two fold, resulted from surface application of limestone regardless of time of application. In the second field experiment treatments included surface and incorporated dolomitic limestone at either 6.5 or 13.0 Mg/ha, gypsum at 13.0 Mg/ha, foliar Mo at 560 g/ha and N as a split. Yields increased in response to surface and incorporated lime, Ca, Mo and N application, possibly as a result of Al activities in soil solution being as low as 0 and 0.05 uM in the surface and 1 m depth samples, respectively, for the surface limed soils. Low activity of Al in soil solution may explain why subsurface acidity was not toxic to alfalfa grown on these soils. This study showed that surface limestone at half the recommended rate is adequate for the growth of alfalfa under acidic conditions. The implanted soil mass technique was used to evaluate the influence of subsurface amendments (Ca, N, Ca and N, KOH and Ca(OH)2) on alfalfa root growth and N fixation on soils that received either 0 or 6.7 Mg/ha surface applied limestone. Of the various subsurface amendments the Ca(OH)2 treatment produced the most root growth and N fixation. This study showed that both the reduction in acidity and the availability of Ca are necessary for optimal N fixation and root growth. In vitro studies conducted in growth pouches showed that pH 4.5 nutrient solution was not ·detrimental to alfalfa growth unless A1 was present. Addition of 3.0 mM Ca to a nutrient solution containing 0.08 mM Al alleviated toxic effects of Al on alfalfa growth. No-till alfalfa can thus be grown on acid soils with surface lime by providing Ca and reducing acidity.
- Doctoral Dissertations