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Managing excess iron & acid soil  RSS feed

 
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The property we purchased last year (in tx) has basically no nutrients/vitamins/minerals/organic matter in the soil. Except iron, which is extremely high. It is a pH of around 5. I am having problems with my horse's hooves and am guessing it's because of the high iron content in the grass. We will be getting a cafeteria style mineral feeder for the animals, to hopefully let them balance their own diet and gradually add some mineral back into the ground.

Is there something go do to help the soul balance itself? Broadcasting other minerals would be too expensive for 5 acres, I think, but I haven't exactly priced it.
 
pollinator
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I think you need to lime your soil and bring your PH up. Adding any amendments before that step is just a waste of time and money because the soil will not uptake them. 5.0 PH levels are not just low, they are INCREDIBLY low, but with soil testing you have to be exact. 5.5 and 5.9 make huge differences on soil amendment recommendations.

You have high iron, but a lot of those minor nutrients are dependent on other factors, with PH levels being one of them. In other words get one level up, and other levels drop. I kind of doubt your high iron levels are causing hoof problems on your horses, I would sooner think it was protein levels. I assume with 5 acres you feed hay year around, so testing that for quality would be a first step. If you are pasturing then naturally a lack of nutrients in your soil would be the problem with health in your horses as well.

Obviously Texas is a long ways from Maine, but liming would not be a huge cost for 5 acres. I pay $22 a ton for lime, and at 2 tons to the acre to get your field from say 5.5 to at least 6.0 where grass starts growing, you are looking at $220. You just need to find out what a ton of lime costs in your area, figure two tons to the acre (or whatever your soil report recommends), and multiply times 5.
 
gardener
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Location: Middle Tennessee
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I'd like to recommend getting a soil test done by a lab. I'd also like echo what Travis said and start with lime, it's one of the most economic ways to improve soil. I just scheduled a liming to be done on 38 acres of pasture and it's going to cost me $27 a ton, delivered and spread, here in Tennessee. With your soil test results you'll know how much lime to apply without guessing at it and possibly applying too much, and therefore spending more than you have to. The soil test will also let you know if there are other minerals that are deficient, and you can price those out so you know exactly what those will cost and perhaps consider applying those as well. If you do choose to lime your soil, may I suggest a good all around target pH to aim for is 6.5.

Iron is one of those elements that becomes more available as the pH drops, so a higher pH like above 6 will effectively "throttle" the iron availability (see chart below), if indeed high iron grass is the culprit causing hoof problems. I don't know anything about animal hooves, or horses for that matter. Having elevated iron levels in a soil is ok if the pH of the soil is where it needs to be.

Liming and adding deficient minerals will really improve your soil, which will grow more, healthier forage with less undesirable "weeds" for your horses. With more minerals in the forage they eat, they will spend less time at the mineral bar, which means mineral blocks last longer and save you money.
soil-ph-nutrient-chart.jpg
[Thumbnail for soil-ph-nutrient-chart.jpg]
 
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A pH of 5 and no organic matter?  Please tell us more about what your soil is made of. 

pH's this low usually correspond to wetland peat bogs.  Prairie grassland usually is in the mid 6's.

High iron is almost certainly due to the high acidity, or someone dropped huge quantities of FeSO4 on your land.

Question:  Does your well water also have lots of iron?

Get a soil test done, and talk to your county extension agent.  He may be able to tell you what is going in.
 
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Location: northwest AR (USA)
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Thanks for the info in this thread and especially the chart showing availability/pH levels. Our soil is sand, clay, high iron and manganese and extremely to low pH. It varies around. Some areas, like in the woods where the ginseng grows, needs the low pH but in the fields where I'd like to have better forage for the horses, and definitely in the garden which is on new (awful) ground, I can put this to use. Taking some soil samples is first on the list, then getting started with the lime.

Is there a best time of year to do the liming? In spring or do it now with winter approaching?

[edited to add this] I used to work in an environmental lab and did a lot of soil analysis, but never had the time to put to use the info I gathered on my own soil while I worked there. That was years ago, though, and my info on our own soil is lost so I'll have to bring in new samples. The pH ranged from 5 to 6 in most areas, except near the house where previous owners of the property burned a lot of scrap wood. The pH there was over 7. While much of the Ozarks is on limestone karst and has lots of limestone bluffs and rock, our particular spot is mostly sandstone and little or no limestone rock anywhere. The water source here is spring-sourced, and the water there is low in pH, too. I suspect it is because it travels through sandstone and is also gathering carbonic acid from leaf humus before it seeps into the cracks or wherever the water goes after rains. I haven't figured out where the water comes from in our springs - it flows even during the most severe droughts when neighbors around have wells going dry, so I don't think it's just runoff from rains. In the woods where the ginseng grows, the pH is low (around 5) and the calcium is fairly high but I can't remember the levels. This is actually optimum conditions for growing good ginseng, but it's an odd combination. In other oak/hickory dominant forest areas we have a lot of huckleberries and blueberries wild, and they of course like the low pH. As someone mentioned in the reply above mine, swamp is where low pH is common, but there is no swamp here now. 300 million years ago, though, it was very swampy and I find a lot of plant fossils from trees that grew in swamps during that time. It's hard to imagine that would have any bearing on why the pH is so low here now, though who knows. Nowadays it's high ground and the only wet soil is at seeps and spring sites.
 
pollinator
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Location: Unincorporated Pierce County, WA Zone 7b
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I kind of doubt your high iron levels are causing hoof problems on your horses, I would sooner think it was protein levels. 



Actually, high iron levels are a serious issue for equine health.  Excess iron levels can contribute to laminitis.  Katie is 100% correct to be concerned.  The iron levels need to be balanced with copper, selenium, and zinc. I also live in an area with acidic soil, high iron levels and very low selenium and zinc levels and without supplementation, the pastures and hay inevitably leads to poor hoof health.

Katie, I'd probably spring for pulling some blood and running a mineral panel so you know what you're dealing with while you sort out the pH in your pastures.
 
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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It has been said, Lime that soil now, Raising the pH at least to 6.0 will take about a ton per acre, for the best pasture you will want to do a liming now and then another in the spring.
Getting the pH up to 6.5-6.8 will reduce the Fe availability and save your horses lots of problems. Once you have the Fe under control then you can worry about getting other minerals into the soil.
Most likely you will find that you have a fair mineral profile once the pH is in the right range for grasses to grow which will save you a lot of additions.

The window for amendments that will get incorporated the best is March through October or November. As long as the soil is not freezing amendments will sink into the soil and stick around.
Amount of rain per 24 hour period is the other limiting factor for best incorporation of amendments, heavy rain fall washes these away faster than they can sink in, right after a heavy rain is a good time to make amendments that will lay on the surface for a while.

I would get some mineral blocks for the horses, that will allow them to make mineral adjustments in their bodies better than trying to make those amendments to the soil at this time. The soil can come later, right now the animals are the important focus.

rock dust mineral additions can be done in the spring and through to fall, winter additions of minerals usually don't get incorporated as easily, especially if you are where the ground can freeze.

If you haven't already started one, get a compost heap going, away from the horses, this material, as it ages and finishes will be one of the best additions you can make to your pasture lands and gardens.
I have three types of manure on my farm that goes into my compost heaps along with all the straw bedding that collects the manure and urine.
To that I add in all the greenery I cut for pruning and maintenance of the gardens. Chop any woody materials as small as you can to help with their speed of decomposition. Doing this will also speed up the growth of fungi that will be doing the decomposition of those woody materials.

Redhawk
 
Posts: 69
Location: Manila
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My first remedy for acidic soil is always wood ash which you can 'make' for yourself as opposed to buying lime. Good chance you can get it for free too.
 
Posts: 39
Location: San Martin, CA
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I don't have any experience with acidic soil, but I do have horses.  There is a product that balances the iron in the horses diet called California Trace.  Has zinc and copper.  If you're not on the West Coast, maybe there's a barefoot trimmer out there that can help you find a similar product for your area.  I hear there's another one in Arizona.

You can soil test and have your soils amended, but if you have well water with high iron that just makes it more difficult because you're not just balancing the hay ration at that point...

 
Dado Scooter
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Location: San Martin, CA
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I would not put out mineral blocks for your horses.  Most mineral blocks are RED, which means there could be oxidized iron in it, so you may be adding fuel to the fire.  White salt block, please.
 
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Location: West GA
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I have a very similar situation.  I have red Georgia clay. My bad field came back with a ph of 4.7 and my "good" field came back with 4.8 this is after applying 1ton of lime an acre. I would recommend finding a mineral for the animals that does not contain iron. Same qith their feed. I have sheep and I'm also currently looking for a mineral that contains no iron available in my area. Southern states has a 2:1 mineral that has no iron but no feed stores near me carry it. Which is strange as it would be one of the best for the cattle in my area.

1# get the iron out of their mineral and feed.
2# get the PH moved up.

I recommend having the lime spread for you. I purchased a herd 2500lbs spreader for lime and I would have to say I don't like it. Way cheaper/easier to have it spread. Though on just 5 acres you could do it with a push spreader and 50lbs bags. It would take a while maybe do a 1/4 acre a weekend. 10x50lbs bags. There is also coral calcium that can be sprayed on with water. I have not used it but a cattle farmer near me likes it.
 
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