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Fertilizers formulated for alkaline soils of the Southwest

Recently I was in an Albuquerque retail nursery where a fertilizer was being sold that stated it was formulated for alkaline soils of the Southwest.  It contained high levels of iron and sulfur, plus the N, P and K major nutrients. 

Do any of the readers care to comment on this type of product?    Pros, Cons, etc.  I have my take on it, but I'll entertain what you want to say about it. 

Michael Martin Meléndrez


Anonymous said…
I think if you dump enough stuff on alkaline soil, eventually your stuff will exceed the other stuff ;-)

David Petersen
David, It's true that you could overwhelm the soils buffering capacity by adding acid to an alkaline soil, however here's your obstacle. Do you have the budget and do you really want to do that. First you are dealing with the huge volume of soil versus how much acid it would take. Remember, a 1000 sq. ft. yard going one foot deep could be in excess of 100,000 pounds of minerals and when the soil is alkaline, its because the CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity) is dominated by Base (alkaline) Cations, where Calcium and Magnesium together could represent over 75% of the soils CEC. Your talking about a lot of Base Cations you would have to displace. The other problem is the damage you would cause your soils chemistry. Remember, when you add an acid to a base, you make a salt.

Finally, in cases of typical Southwestern soil chemistry where the pH could range from the mid 7 to 8 or even higher, there's no reason to attempt changing the pH. What's needed is to instigate a healthier biological situation where Nature provides the mutualistic benefits provided by mycorrhizal fungus, who can sequester the mineral elements needed by the host plant, even if the soil has a high pH. Up till now, the nursery industry did not have a solution for home owners who were experiencing chemical occlusion (tying up of nutrients) because of high pH soils, where nutrient elements like iron would become complexed and were not capable of water solubility or oxidation. That's when we see plants starving for something because of failure of plant nutrient uptake! Our proving grounds in Los Lunas, called the Arboretum Tomé is a good example of this process, where the soil pH ranged from 8.3 to 9.2 and was a Saline Sodic Alkaline clay, also called White Death by many in the industry. We focused on fixing the biology and fortifying the soil with a powerful biologic chemical called Supramolecular Humic Acids. The objective of the Humic Acid fortification is to not change the pH, but to provide the many chemical characteristics/benefits that this chemical of nature provides. If I were to check the pH today, and I have, there's little change, however the Sodic and Saline situations has been corrected and the soil now has excellent structure rich in Active Carbon according to recent tests performed by Clarence Chavez, the acting State Soil Scientists for the USDA NRCS in New Mexico. The site now grows a huge genus and species collection of trees from around the world, with many having the reputation of not tolerating high pH soils, yet they grow fine for us.

Michael Martin Meléndrez
Here's a professional opinion that came from a NRCS Agronomist on the subject of using acid based fertilizers on alkaline soils. Im keeping his name anonymous, since I don't know if he wanted me to disclose his identity.

"Having the opportunity to grow up on a 7-acre farm where we planted a large variety of crops in a very diverse rotation, with minimal soil disturbance, with crop residues grazed with goats and sheep (our field were also topped dressed with goat and sheep manure); this field never had iron or sulfur applied to them and crop yields were great. Thus, the need for fertilizers formulated for alkaline soils is probably needed for degraded soils (low OM) found in conventionally tilled soils with lack of crop diversity, cover crops, etc. I believe that the issue is primarily a soil health issue, that is lack of mycorrhizal associations with plant roots, tillage that destroys this association and degrades soil aggregates, also lack of cover crops with legumes, etc.

Therefore, the answer is to build soil health, this will restore the biogeochemical nutrient cycle and many other benefits (increased water holding capacity, reduced insect and disease pressures, etc.)."
Anonymous said…
How do the biological processes of BioChar differ from that of TerraPro humic acids.

John Miller
Reclamation specialist
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
BioChar versus Supramolecular Humic Acids is like comparing an Aircraft Carrier to a rowboat. They are both boats, but only one can be used to land jets on, or house 5000 sailors. In this case, both BioChar and Humic Acids are rich in carbon, however BioChar cannot function as a chemical shuttle, participate in microbial respiration by functioning as and electron donor and receptor system, and BioChar is not a highly reactive chemical substance with a high Dipole moment and therefore it can't attract or hold water in it's energy gradient, useful for managing water in an arid climate. BioChar is not part of the recalcitrant carbon of nature, which is part of the Clay-Humus domain, which improves the macroaggregate structure of a soil. Applying BioChar may have benefits in terms of adding carbon to a soil that becomes part of the labile (temporary) soil carbon fraction and may even have some electronegativity benefits in adding additional Cation Exchange Capacity, but its not Humus.
Robert LaRue said…
I came to the Cochise/Pearce Sunsites area of Arizona from Tucson in January 2010. A couple of weeks later I had my first conversation with Michael Melendrez after visiting his Soil Secrets website. I was on 16 acres renting from the owners and was preparing an organic garden. I had the soil tested by A & L labs in Plains, Tx. My soil ph was 8.8 - extremely alkaline, CEC 15.5 - good, K 12.8% - way too high, Ca 74.3% - great, Mg 7.6% - too low and Na 5.3% - way too high. Soil type was mostly silt with some sand and some clay. Concrete when dry, could penetrate when wet. White alkali (white death) could be seen on E. Sulfur Springs Rd., a dirt road leading to our place.

I decided to go with Soil Secrets products, Terrapro, Protein Crumblies and the two liquids, Earth Nectar and Earth Ambrosia. These were rich in humic substances, mycorrhizae and microorganisms and contained NO salts. With these inputs, I had one of the best if not THE best garden I've ever had in 39 years of growing, researching and experimenting experience. Flavor especially was OUTSTANDING as well as yield! I had some minor insect damage but nothing the plants couldn't live with. The hot dog chemical fertilizer in this region is ammonium sulfate, very salty! Why add salt to already salt overloaded soils? Reason is conventional agriculture doesn't care about building soil with a healthy Soil Food Web and if they did care, they don't know how.

The high iron, high sulfur, salty NPK fertilizer mentioned above is garbage and contributes to soil destruction, not soil or plant health. That's my two cent's worth.
Kat Maurer said…
I live in Tucson as well and have become interested in Soil Secrets after the recommendation of Bill McDorman from Native Seeds/ SEARCH. Do you know of anywhere they are locally available?
Spec International Inc, located at 13952 N Oracle Rd in Tucson. John Miller would be happy to answer any of your questions; he can be reached at (520) 825-3717. Thanks for reading and your interest.
-Aurora, Staff Biologist

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