Too often, calcium is seen merely as a means to adjust soil pH, or as a soil amendment to aid in water movement in soils. While addressing these issues is important, it will not always translate into adequate plant calcium nutrition. Too often we correct soil PH only to find that tissue levels of calcium are inadequate, or that fruit storability is poor. Water and soil amending with calcium is different than supplying the plant with available calcium.
Optimum calcium nutrition is a critical to plant development. Improved calcium uptake during key cell development can enhance overall crop quality. Calcium is a divalent cation assimilated by the plant as ionic calcium with the chemical annotation of Ca++. It is an essential component of cell walls, abiotic stress defense, and is directly link to crop quality.
The ability to maintain strong cell walls is a function of calcium concentration. When cells walls are weakened, cell contents can leak causing the plant to become susceptible to abiotic stress. While we cannot prevent plants from becoming stressed, the ability to heal can be aided in part through adequate calcium nutrition. As a response to stress, calcium deposits in the cell wall allow the plant to reduce abiotic and biotic stress.
Silicon is a beneficial plant nutrient that can increase plant strength and improve a crop’s ability to fight abiotic stress. Silicon and calcium uptake in conjunction has been shown to dramatically fortify cell wall strength.
Calcium acts as the structural component of plants, and cell wall strength depends on calcium. As plants undergo abiotic stress, enzymes are produced which can reduce cell wall strength, thus weakening its structure. The presence of adequate levels of calcium in the cell prevents the activity of these enzymes, allowing for stronger cell walls and improved plant and fruit quality.
Calcium is key in the process of root growth and extension. As roots grow through the soil, the root tip (cap) undergoes tremendous change. The structure of the root and the ability of the root tip to rapidly grow is dependent upon plant calcium. When available calcium is not present, root growth will stop.
Plants assimilate soluble calcium from the soil. The concentration of soluble calcium on the external root surface will affect the internal concentration of calcium in the plant roots, stems, and leaves. For plant growth and storage, plants will pull soluble calcium thru the roots and into the plant vascular system. If the soil solution calcium is deficient, the plant will pull soluble calcium already present in fruits and leaves to areas of deficiency in the plant. To have adequate soluble calcium for fruit storage and quality, it is critical to maintain good levels of calcium in these areas. To achieve the level of calcium necessary for plant growth and quality, it is important to maintain a constant supply of soluble calcium free from nitrogen, salt, and sulfur. Early season levels of available soluble soil calcium are critical to fruit quality and storability.
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