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Water-soluble calcium is a source of available calcium that can be made from commonly used household items, eggshells and vinegar. When applied as a foliar spray, Water-soluble calcium provides available calcium to plants for normal cell processes, root growth, and fruiting.Calcium plays a very important role as a nutrient in regulating plant growth and development and must be available for uptake from the soil or other growing media. Calcium can also react with other soil nutrients, such as phosphorous, to form insoluble compounds that cannot be used by plants.Calcium is commonly applied as a soil amendment in the form of ground limestone (calcium carbonate) or gypsum (calcium sulphate). Water soluble calcium is an alternative to these commercial sources of calcium.According to experts at National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL-Kawanda), water soluble calcium can be made from commonly used household items; eggshells and vinegar.According to Doreen Nampamya, a Research Associate with Korea Program on International Agriculture (Kopia) based at Kawanda, eggshells must be crushed finely and mixed with a weak acid such as vinegar.This mixture is applied as a foliar spray during the reproductive stage of a plant’s growth cycle when setting fruit and vegetables are most vulnerable to blossom-end rot.Nampamya adds that seeds that are deficient in calcium generally have poor germination rates and produce abnormal, weak seedlings. So, water soluble calcium can be used as a seed-soaking solution prior to planting to improve seed germination and seedling vigour.
How to make water soluble calciumAccording to Nampamya, making water soluble calcium is an inexpensive activity.The biggest task, according to Nampamya, is obtaining eggshells. “But similar raw materials like oyster or clam shells are good substitutes,” she says. All that is needed is half a kilo of eggshells, 10 litres of vinegar, a blender/mixer and small weighing scale.The shells should be broken into small pieces using a blender or mixer. But locally, they can be ground on stones. The eggshells should ideally be roasted in a frying pan over low heat for about 45 minutes to remove any organic substances that will contaminate the solution when they rot. The shells should be lightly burnt to a light tan colour.The roasted eggshells should be mixed with a jar filled with brown rice vinegar at a ratio of 1: 10 by weight.Nampamya says that during this process, the eggshell fragments will float up and down within the vinegar, emitting carbon dioxide bubbles, while the calcium is being dissolved into the solution.The mouth of the jar should then be covered with a breathable piece of cloth or paper and secured with rubber bands to keep away pests.“But the cover should not be made of plastic paper,” she says. The jar should be kept in a cool, dark place for seven to 10 days. “After that time, one should check for bubbles in the solution. If they are not present, the solution is ready. But if they are present, it is required to add more eggshells and stored for at least two more days. This should be repeated until the solution stops producing bubbles,” she notes.Finally, the solution should be strained into a clean glass jar to remove eggshells. It can last up to six months. “The clean solution should be stored at room temperature out of direct sunlight,” she stresses.BenefitsAccording to Nampamya, eggshell components consist about 90 per cent of calcium carbonate, 7.5 per cent of protein, lipids and a large number of inorganic components such as phosphorous and magnesium.She says that the inorganic materials in shells makes calcium much superior to commercially available calcium materials. Application of calcium is vital in the plant’s increased resistance to diseases like soft rot.ApplicationThe best times to spray are just after sundown or very early in the morning, to prevent leaf burn and to allow sufficient time for absorption before evaporation from the leaf surface.Nampamya also explains that water soluble calcium should be used by a light mist. “One should not spray heavily as the solution keeps dripping from the foliage,” she says.Spraying can be done every after seven days in case there are symptoms of calcium deficiency in plants.TipHow to identify calcium deficiencyCalcium deficiency symptoms appear initially in stunted plant growth, curling of the leaves, and eventual death of terminal buds and root tips.Deficiency can be identified with yellow/brown spots, surrounded by a sharp brown outlined edge.In older plants, larger leaves just above the bottommost ones will show the first symptoms.Empty bean pods also explains calcium deficiency as maturity failure in fruits and vegetables is a major phenomenon.The occurrence of spot wilt of green vegetables as there are no heads formed.Lack of calcium can also lead to pH deficiencies making things more acidic.
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