A review of the use of the basic cation saturation ratio and the "ideal" soil

Kopittke, Peter M. and Menzies, Neal W. (2007) A review of the use of the basic cation saturation ratio and the "ideal" soil. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 71 2: 259-265. doi:10.2136/sssaj2006.0186


Author Kopittke, Peter M.
Menzies, Neal W.
Title A review of the use of the basic cation saturation ratio and the "ideal" soil
Journal name Soil Science Society of America Journal   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0361-5995
Publication date 2007-08-06
Sub-type Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
DOI 10.2136/sssaj2006.0186
Volume 71
Issue 2
Start page 259
End page 265
Total pages 7
Place of publication Madison, Wis.
Publisher American Society of Agronomy
Language eng
Subject 300103 Soil Chemistry
C1
0503 Soil Sciences
0703 Crop and Pasture Production
050207 Environmental Rehabilitation (excl. Bioremediation)
Abstract The use of 'balanced' Ca, Mg, and K ratios, as prescribed by the basic cation saturation ratio (BCSR) concept, is still used by some private soil-testing laboratories for the interpretation of soil analytical data. This review aims to examine the suitability of the BCSR concept as a method for the interpretation of soil analytical data. According to the BCSR concept, maximum plant growth will be achieved only when the soil’s exchangeable Ca, Mg, and K concentrations are approximately 65 % Ca, 10 % Mg, and 5 % K (termed the ‘ideal soil’). This ‘ideal soil’ was originally proposed by Firman Bear and co-workers in New Jersey (USA) during the 1940s as a method of reducing luxury K uptake by alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.). At about the same time, William Albrecht, working in Missouri (USA), concluded through his own investigations that plants require a soil with a high Ca saturation for optimal growth. Whilst it now appears that several of Albrecht’s experiments were fundamentally flawed, the BCSR (‘balanced soil’) concept has been widely promoted, suggesting that the prescribed cationic ratios provide optimum chemical, physical, and biological soil properties. Our examination of data from numerous studies (particularly those of Albrecht and Bear, themselves) would suggest that, within the ranges commonly found in soils, the chemical, physical, and biological fertility of a soil is generally not influenced by the ratios of Ca, Mg, and K. The data do not support the claims of the BCSR, and continued promotion of the BCSR will result in the inefficient use of resources in agriculture and horticulture.
Keyword Soil Science
analytical data
basic cation saturation ratio
BCSR
Liming Agronomic Crops
Red-brown Earths
Aggregate Stability
Clay Dispersion
Root Elongation
Q-Index Code C1

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
Collections: Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) - Collection
School of Agriculture and Food Sciences
 
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Created: Mon, 06 Aug 2007, 20:45:06 EST by Dr Peter Kopittke on behalf of School of Land, Crop and Food Sciences