New economic study shows benefits of gypsum
“In all, there were more than 20 soil improvement characteristics that many gypsum users rated as ‘important,’” Batte said.
The researchers found that gypsum’s economic returns and other benefits increased over time. Farmers who adopted the practice of applying gypsum prior to 2010, for example, gave higher scores for all benefits tested than did newer users, according to Batte and Forster.
Nearly 30 percent of longer-term users applied gypsum to all of their farm acreage in 2012 or 2013. Long-term growers applied gypsum to 45.7 percent of their cropland compared with newer users who applied it to 33.8 percent on average.
The research showed that gypsum provided environmental and societal benefits, too. Soil-applied gypsum may serve as a means to stabilize phosphorus in the soil and reduce downstream effects of phosphorus movement, a nutrient blamed for excessive plant growth in streams, lakes and coastal waters.
“Realizing that gypsum easily pays for itself in yield increases alone will give growers confidence in adopting this practice,” Chamberlain said. “But yield is only part of the story. Many operators also experience improvements in fertilizer efficiency, less nutrient loss and improved drought tolerance due to improved moisture retention. Those are benefits to their bottom line and to the environment.”
Growers have used gypsum to some extent since colonial times. Recent use has grown dramatically due to the availability of larger quantities of low-cost gypsum. While gypsum is a naturally occurring mineral that is mined, it is also produced as a by-product in several industrial processes, as well as in the scrubbing of sulfur from coal-fired power plants.
More information about gypsum is available at http://www.gypsoil.com/.
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