Soil acidification and the importance of liming agricultural soils with particular reference to the United Kingdom

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Goulding, K. W. T. 2016. Soil acidification and the importance of liming agricultural soils with particular reference to the United Kingdom. Soil Use and Management. 32 (3), pp. 390-399.

AuthorsGoulding, K. W. T.

Soil acidification is caused by a number of factors including acidic precipitation and the deposition from the atmosphere of acidifying gases or particles, such as sulphur dioxide, ammonia and nitric acid. The most important causes of soil acidification on agricultural land, however, are the application of ammonium-based fertilizers and urea, elemental S fertilizer and the growth of legumes. Acidification causes the loss of base cations, an increase in aluminium saturation and a decline in crop yields; severe acidification can cause nonreversible clay mineral dissolution and a reduction in cation exchange capacity, accompanied by structural deterioration. Soil acidity is ameliorated by applying lime or other acid-neutralizing materials. 'Liming' also reduces N2O emissions, but this is more than offset by CO2 emissions from the lime as it neutralizes acidity. Because crop plants vary in their tolerance to acidity and plant nutrients have different optimal pH ranges, target soil pH values in the UK are set at 6.5 (5.8 in peaty soils) for cropped land and 6.0 (5.3 in peaty soils) for grassland. Agricultural lime products can be sold as 'EC Fertiliser Liming Materials' but, although vital for soil quality and agricultural production, liming tends to be strongly influenced by the economics of farming. Consequently, much less lime is being applied in the UK than required, and many arable and grassland soils are below optimum pH.

KeywordsSoil Science
Year of Publication2016
JournalSoil Use and Management
Journal citation32 (3), pp. 390-399
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
PubMed ID27708478
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeDelivering Sustainable Systems (SS) [ISPG]
The Rothamsted Long-Term Experiments including Sample Archive and e-RA database [2012-2017]
Quantifying Sustainable Systems
Movement and spatial ecology in agricultural landscapes
Publisher's version
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
OnlineApr 2016
Publication process dates
AcceptedFeb 2016
Copyright licenseCC BY

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