Conference To Focus On Midwest Soil Improvement

New uses for gypsum in agriculture will be highlighted at the Midwest Soil Improvement Symposium: Research and Practical Insights into Using Gypsum on Aug. 23. The event will be held at the University of Wisconsin Arlington Agricultural Research Station.

The symposium will explore the impact of gypsum application on crop productivity, including for corn, soybeans, alfalfa and specialty crops, and its impact on soil and water quality. Research findings and application recommendations will be presented, as well as background on gypsum production and safety. In addition, there will be two panel discussions featuring growers experienced in using gypsum on their farms.

The benefits of using gypsum in agriculture were recognized more than 200 years ago. Because it was expensive to mine and transport, gypsum was limited to use in certain high-value specialty crops such as peanuts and potatoes. New, low-cost sources of gypsum are available now thanks to industrial processes that create gypsum as a by-product.

Many coal-fired utilities use advanced scrubbing systems to remove sulfur dioxide (SO2) from their emissions. These scrubbers produce high-quality and very pure FGD gypsum or calcium sulfate dihydrate (CaSO4 * 2H2O). According to utility industry surveys, annual production of FGD gypsum is currently approximately 18 million tons and could double in the next ten years. In addition to FGD gypsum, co-product gypsum is derived from fermenting corn for food products.

“Applying by-product gypsum is a good method of recycling,” says Dr. Richard P. Wolkowski, a University of Wisconsin-Madison senior scientist and extension soil scientist and co-host for the symposium. “What would normally be landfilled is now being used to supply plant fertility needs. Gypsum is an excellent source of calcium and sulfur for crops.”

Dr. Wolkowski and Dr. Meghan Buckley of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point will discuss several gypsum research studies now underway in Wisconsin. One study at the Arlington facility is comparing the response of alfalfa to gypsum at rates of 1, 2, and 4 tons per acre. Alfalfa yield, tissue nutrient concentration, soil physical properties, and soil test are being measured.

The symposium will highlight several other gypsum studies currently underway. Other researchers who will be presenting include:

  • Dr. Warren Dick, Professor, Environmental and Natural Resources, Ohio State University, Wooster, OH, will discuss gypsum benefits to crop productivity;
  • Dr. Dexter B. Watts, Research Soil Scientist, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Auburn, AL, will discuss soil and water quality and research on using gypsum on buffer strips to reduce soluble phosphorus in surface water runoff;
  • Dr. Darrell Norton, Soil Scientist, National Soil Erosion Research Lab, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, West Lafayette, IN, (invited) who discuss the impact of gypsum on the environment;
  • Dr. Rufus Chaney, Research Agronomist, Environmental Management and Byproduct Utilization Laboratory, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville, MD, will deliver a risk assessment for beneficial use of FGD gypsum in agriculture via webinar;
  • Dr. Harry H. Schomberg, Ecologist, J. Phil Campbell, Sr, National Resource Conservation Center, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Watkinsville, GA, will describe evaluations of FGD Gypsum to improve forage and reduce phosphorus losses in piedmont soils;
  • Dr. Birl Lowery, Professor, Soil Science, University of Wisconsin, will lead tours of gypsum research plots at the Arlington site.

Certified Crop Advisors (CCAs), agronomists, soil scientists, extension advisors, researchers, farm managers and others interested in soil improvement tools and gypsum research are encouraged to attend the symposium. CCA continuing education units will be available.

For more information or to register online visit

(Source: Illinois Ag Connection)


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