Addressing soil deficiences & imbalances

Cornell Cooperative Extension

Fall lime applications can help improve soils for the 2021 growing season

Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Program (SWNYDLFC) provides information about managing soil pH to promote future agricultural success.

Managing fertility is one part of soil management, which involves proper tillage practices, crop rotation, cover crops, water management, lime application, and weed management. Soil sampling is an important tool used to understand the nutrient content of agricultural ground. Testing soils in the fall can help identify nutrient imbalances and allows time to address them prior to the next growing season. Once soils are tested and results are received, the next step to amending soil is through lime applications.

Soil pH is an indication of how acidic or basic your soils are. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14 with pH 7 being the neutral point. Many of the crops grown in Southwest NY prefer a soil pH of 6.0-7.0, however, pH values less than 6.0 are often observed in agricultural fields. Grass crops, such as corn and wheat, can tolerate acidic soils better than our leguminous crops like alfalfa and clover species. Lime requirements for pastures depend on the species in the pasture. Many of our New York pastures consist of clover-grass mixes which will benefit from lime application if the pH is less than 6.2. As the soil becomes more acidic, nutrients like phosphorus become less available for plant use. Other elements, like aluminum and iron, can become more available to the plant and may actually become toxic, reducing crop yields. Applying lime to increase the pH of acidic soils can be economically advantageous when proper management guidelines are followed.

In New York, our most common liming materials are calcite lime and dolomite lime which are ground limestone. Both can correct soil acidity, however, calcite lime contains 1-6% magnesium whereas dolomite lime contains greater than 6%. This means that dolomite lime can neutralize more soil acid ton for ton than calcite lime. It’s simply more potent. Other less common liming materials, like burned lime and hydrated lime, are much more powerful and can raise soil pH beyond the targeted pH. Additionally, they can be difficult to handle and can vary greatly in quality.

Fall application of lime is a preferred time in most areas of Western New York as it reduces opportunities for compaction and interference with spring planting. In addition, this allows time for the lime to react with the soil and help neutralize the soil acidity. It is important to monitor soil pH on a regular basis for optimum crop yields. Further information about soil pH, lime, and liming materials can be found in “Lime Guidelines for Field Crops in New York” written by Ketterings et al. 2006. If you have questions about soil test reports or liming field crops, contact Josh Putman at or 716-490-5572. Livestock and Beginning Farm Specialist, Amy Barkley, can be reached at or 716-640-0844 if you have questions about pasture health and management.

Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Program specialists are here to help provide research-based resources and support during this challenging time. Their team of four specialists includes Katelyn Walley-Stoll, Farm Business Management (716-640-0522 or; Joshua Putman, Field Crops (716-490-5572 or; Alycia Drwencke, Dairy Management (517-416-0386 or; and Amy Barkley, Livestock Management (716-640-0844 or While specialists are working remotely at this time, they are still offering consultations via phone, text, email, videoconferencing, and mail. They are also providing weekly updates with timely resources and connections via email and hardcopy and virtual programming. For more information, or to be added to their notification list, contact

Katelyn Walley-Stoll, Team Leader, at 716-640-0522, or visit their website

The Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Program is the newest Cornell Cooperative Extension regional program and covers Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, and Steuben Counties. The Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops regional specialists work with Cornell faculty and Extension educators to address the issues that influence the agricultural industry in New York by offering educational programming and research based information to agricultural producers, growers, and agribusinesses in the Southwestern New York Region. Cornell Cooperative Extension is an employer and educator recognized for valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans, and Individuals with Disabilities and provides equal program and employment opportunities.

If you would like more information about this topic, please call Josh Putman at 716-490-5572 or email For more information about Cornell Cooperative Extension, contact your county’s Association Executive Director. Allegany County – Laura Hunsberger, or 585-268-7644. Cattaraugus County – Dick Rivers, or 716-699-2377. Chautauqua County – Emily Reynolds, or 716-664-9502. Erie County – Diane Held, or 716-652-5400. Steuben County – Tess McKinley,, or 607-664-2301.

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