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March 12, 2019

Agricultural Limestone key to High Productivity in Cerrado Soils

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

Recent studies conducted by Professor Anderson Lange at the Federal University of Mato Grosso reconfirmed the benefit of agricultural limestone for the production of soybeans in the state of Mato Grosso, which is the number one soybean producing state in Brazil. The three year study conducted in the municipality of Sinop in northern Mato Grosso, indicated that the proper use of agricultural limestone can increase average soybean yields by 15 sacks per hectare or 13 bushels per acre.

The key for high soybean yields is keeping the soil pH at the optimum level. During the course of the research, some soybean yields were as high as 75 sacks per hectare or 65.7 bushels per acre.

Keeping the soil pH at the proper level is critical for high yields in the cerrado soils of central Brazil. In their native state, cerrado soils have a lot of problems including: they are highly weathered, acidic in nature, low in fertility, low in organic matter, highly leached, ighly erosive, and high in aluminum. Some of these problems are corrected by the proper application of agricultural limestone which increases the pH, increases the fertility, and makes aluminum unavailable for the plants.

The study also concluded that a one-time application of agricultural limestone is not sufficient to maintain high yields. If agricultural limestone was applied only one time, a yield drag started to appear as soon as the second year without additional applications. That is due to the fact that the nutrients in the soil are easily leached out by the heavy tropical rains. The soils become more acid each year that limestone is not applied and as a result, yields start to decline.

Years ago, many farmers thought that the cerrado soils could never become highly productive, but scientists went to work studying the problem and they discovered that cerrado soils could be very productive with the proper application of agricultural limestone and fertilizers. Even with that knowledge, the problem was that there were no commercial sources of agricultural limestone nearby and the cost of transportation was very high. That problem has now been solved with numerous sources of agricultural limestone developed in Mato Grosso.

Mato Grosso is Brazil's largest producer of soybeans, corn, cotton, and cattle. The amount of soybeans produced in Mato Grosso is equivalent to the amount produced in Iowa, Illinois, and half of Indiana combined.