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The limestone soil it is a type of terrain characterized by specific characteristics. But what are they? How can a calcareous soil be recognized from other types?
Let's try to understand it in this short guide, in which we will share some reflections on the calcareous soil and its main specificities.
What are calcareous soils
THE calcareous soils they are soils that have more than 15% of CaCO3 (calcium carbonate) in the soil, presenting themselves in various forms (dust, crusts, etc…). Soils with high CaCO3 belong to the calcium groups of soils, and are relatively widespread in the driest areas of the Earth.
What is the productivity of calcareous soils
There potential productivity of calcareous soils it is high, where it is possible to provide adequate water and nutrients.
The high calcium saturation tends to keep the calcareous soils in a well aggregated form and in good condition, but where the soils contain the so-called petricalcium horizon, impenetrable, must be previously plowed in depth in order to "break" this surface level.
The above should be followed by the implementation of an efficient drainage system. Furrow irrigation is better than basin irrigation on particularly thick limestone soils. On undulating terrain, sprinkler irrigation may instead be a better option. You can also practice drip irrigation, one of the main alternatives.
We also remember that calcareous soils generally have a low content of organic matter and they lack nitrogen. The nitrogen fertilizer can be applied at any time, from just before planting until the time when the plant is well established.
The application of nitrogen through lateral application to the growing crop is an efficient way of adding nitrogen content. However, the treatment must be carried out in such a way as not to apply nitrogen near the seed, as it can prevent germination. The sources of nitrogen and ammoniacal urea must not then be left on the surface of calcareous soils, as significant losses of ammonia can occur due to volatilization, which must instead be incorporated into the soil.
How to recognize a calcareous soil
As we pointed out not too many lines ago, a soil can be defined as calcareous if it contains calcium carbonate in the measure of 15%, or higher.
It should already be understood, at this point, that the presence of limestone negatively affects the presence of many nutritional elements, such as potassium and magnesium. Not only that: the presence of limestone in the soil conditions its physical characteristics, which allow for the circulation of air and water.
But how you can recognize a calcareous soil in a simple and immediate way?
Although it is appropriate to carry out a chemical analysis in order to ascertain the components of the soil, it can still be remembered that generally calcareous soil:
- it is not particularly fertile, but is suitable for planting olive groves and vineyards;
- creates on the surface a kind of crust, which hinders the penetration of water and air, thus making seed germination much more complicated (hence the need for careful plowing);
- has a lower capacity of retain water.
Having clarified the above, the verification of a calcareous soil can be done through the use of common substances.
Anyone wishing to ascertain this condition can therefore, for example, take two tablespoons of soil from some different areas of the soil (at least 4), then mix everything to air dry and put the mixture in a glass.
Once this is done, just add a few drops of a reagent substance to the glass with the soil, such as muriatic acid, pure vinegar, lemon juice.
It will therefore be necessary to check whether or not an effervescence is created. If the effervescence is particularly pronounced, then the soil will tend to be calcareous. If, on the other hand, the effervescence is absent or late in arriving, the soil should have little limestone.
Read also: How to make the soil acidic
Acidic or calcareous soil?
Knowing how to correctly distinguish a calcareous soil from an acid soil is essential to be able to increase the survival opportunities of a plant.
Suffice it to consider, for example, that a calcareous soil is generally suitable for plants "calcicules", While plants that do not like a calcareous soil are generally defined as plants"acidophilic". In fact, there are species that, receiving water enriched with calcium or calcareous fertilizers such as those that may be present in the soil, could suffer significant damage.
More specifically, when an acidophilic plant is buried in a soil rich in limestone, the so-called “Ferric chlorosis”, which mainly manifests itself through a particularly marked discoloration of the leaves.
Furthermore, flowering and fruiting, when they occur, tend to be very scarce. And also the vegetation present on a calcareous soil can be particularly stunted, due to the presence of a limestone that causes various minerals, as a result of elaborate chemical reactions, to remain insolubized, and consequently are not absorbable by plants.
We recall how among acidophilic plants, and therefore subject to potential iron chlorosis, species such as citrus fruits, gardenias or mimosas are subject. Among the calcicolous plants, on the other hand, or those that like a calcareous soil, there are mulberry, walnut, cherry, tamarisk, larch, cypress, holm oak, olive tree, pomegranate, boxwood, medlar Japanese.