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Keep that water moving

Image of nut orchard with OMEX logo in white on it

(Sponsored) It’s that time of year when we hit the highest point of water usage in the nut crop, says Francisco Rivera Guerrero, agronomy manager for OMEX® Agrifluids. So how can growers ensure a well-drained root zone, allowing water to move through the soil profile unhindered?

Water penetration can be a problem in established orchards. Calcium issues — at least, a lack of soluble calcium — are often blamed. That’s because in soils with an excess of magnesium or sodium over calcium, individual clay particles can clump together, blocking the soil pores.

To displace the magnesium and restore water penetration, calcium may be added to the irrigation water. But it’s not responsible for all water penetration issues — and analysis and testing will help to reveal the cause. So look at your soil map, assess the suitability of your irrigation water, and take a new soil sample.

For example, sometimes trees are planted into very wet soils, which can lead to physical compaction, compressing the soil structure and preventing free water movement through its pores. This kind of physical compaction is very difficult to deal with in-season, so needs a different approach: adding unnecessary calcium to fields like this may create further issues.

One way of dealing with water penetration in compacted soils is to blend a surfactant with a root feed fertilizer. This will help ‘push through’ the physical layers in the soil. A word of warning, however: any such treatment will be short-lived. If this is the route you intend taking, be prepared to make frequent, low-dose applications to get the best results.

But if you have determined calcium to be a limiting factor in the crop root zone, then turning to a soluble, in-season source may alleviate some of the issues. Again, this route is laced with challenges, not least being the fact that the commonly touted solution — water-soluble gypsum — is not as ‘soluble’ as it might suggest.

In fact, it’s just 0.24% soluble! At the recognized rate of 450lbs/acre, this delivers a measly 0.25lbs — 4 oz — of immediately available calcium to the soil solution.

Not very impressive, right? Nor can it be described as efficient — you’re expending a lot of resources, and time, for little return. What’s more, while gypsum is relatively inexpensive, it comes with a further disadvantage. If your water contains even small traces of bicarbonate, and you apply gypsum through irrigation, you risk blocking your system with lime deposits.

Liquid solutions can often be a better bet. Cell Power® SLYCE®, a complex liquid formulation derived from calcium nitrate and humic acid, promises headline benefits of increased soil-available fertility and faster nutrient release, a boost to the crop’s ability to counter stress and disease, as well as more efficient delivery of calcium.

SLYCE® works both on the plant and the soil. It helps release nutrient components within soil and fertilizer. But it also increases the soil organic matter: this promotes its buffering power, nutrient and water-holding capacity, and aeration levels.

Research shows how beneficial fungi thrive within an optimum pH range and soil structure, generating enzymes that can further increase macro element availability.

Designed for flexible dose rates, Cell Power® SLYCE® allows growers to tailor usage to the needs of their particular soil and situation. Most growers will find that a two- or three-week application frequency— coupled with soil sampling — will help water infiltrate into the active root zone again, minimizing under-irrigation and helping to preserve that all-important yield potential.

Learn more at

The product names and brands referenced here are registered and trademarks of OMEX® Agrifluids, Inc.

© OMEX® Agrifluids, Inc. 2021.

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