January is the perfect time to start planning for a bumper 2017 food-plot year. While most planting activities are farther down the road, land managers should make strides towards improving soil pH this month. But certain conditions can make a better impact on soil pH than others.
Most food plots originate from former forested sites where soil acidity is elevated. Winter and fall applications of ground agriculture limestone are generally used to raise the soil pH can be in a powdered or granulated state, but the rate of change in pH can vary tremendously by the particle size and site conditions.
For starters, the smaller the particle size, the faster the lime will react in the soil, but the soil reaction time will be brief for small particle sizes and will have a lower overall effect on the pH. The smallest particle size for limestone applications is pulverized limestone. Granular limestone reacts slower than pulverized limestone but will last longer and will potentially raise the pH more. When adequate time is available, limestone applications should be applied in granular forms, and when pH correction is needed closer to planting season, pulverized limestone should be used.
The two most-important aspects to liming soils are soil moisture and soil contact. Correcting soil pH is a chemical reaction where water serves as a catalyst to jump-start the reaction. When soil moisture is absent, the reaction will fail to initiate. Liming should be initiated just before a light-rain event to ensure soil moisture is available. Finally, soil-to-lime contact is crucial. Limestone should be applied and worked into the top layer of soil to ensure adequate contact. Liming is a chemical reaction, and direct contact is required.