Copper and zinc deficiencies

macky77(2a)March 16, 2014

Hopefully, Slimy_Okra has followed me over for this spin-off question from a thread in veg gardening. We garden in similar soil. Other posters welcome to reply, too, of course. :)

I've asked around in person and I've looked around online for places to have soil tested here in Saskatchewan and haven't found one yet who will do home garden tests. They only do testing for large farms, apparently. I'm jealous of the Extension services those of you in the States can so easily access. The only place I have left to check is the U of SK, but their soil sciences department isn't open for the season yet.

So, as to my question. I attended a livestock feed seminar many years ago and at the meeting, they were talking some about local soil deficiencies and how they customize their grain feeds for each local market, making the assumption that the livestock are grazing on local pasture in the summer and eating local hay in the winter. This explained why my horse's hooves started falling apart after I moved him here. Got him on a supplement and his hooves regained their healthy structure. If this deficiency caused such an obvious consequence in my horse, I can only assume that it would have an effect on humans eating from our garden as well.

The minerals most deficient here are apparently zinc and copper. I'm already applying small amounts of Ironite to help lower our sky-high pH and it's my understanding from other threads here (don't have access to my bag label at the moment) that zinc is present in the Ironite. Hopefully that's correct. Where would I find copper for the garden? What would it be called? I've already perused the shelves at the local greenhouses, Peavy Mart and Early's in Saskatoon, to no avail. Everyone I asked looked at me like I had two heads and were no help at all.

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Yep, I followed you here :)

The U of S doesn't do soil testing anymore. I've been wanting to do a comprehensive test myself and heard that there is a company called ALS Labs in Saskatoon that does it for about $50 for a basic test.

Early's sells a 2 kg box of chelated micronutrients that includes copper along with other micros. I haven't seen copper sulfate (the most commonly used form) sold on its own though. It has much greater potential than iron to be toxic if over-applied.

By the way if you have a pesticide applicator's license, you may be able to purchase copper sulfate. It is commonly used in combination with lime as a fungicide and it's possible that they may be sold separately for the farmer to do the mixing.

This post was edited by Slimy_Okra on Sun, Mar 16, 14 at 14:45

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 2:41PM
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Spanish River Carbonatite is mined near Sudbury, and it might be available locally. I can't say if this is the best soil amendment for you to be using, but it does contain 10ppm copper, per the analysis that the manufacturer has posted online. It also contains considerable lime, so it would raise soil pH.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 4:08PM
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If you do get hold of copper sulfate be sure and apply it with some form of OM and not too long before planting time, since like any salt is releases pretty fast. I know of suppliers for it in the US. I'm not aware that it is restricted.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 7:23PM
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"The U of S doesn't do soil testing anymore."
Well, that's disappointing. One would think that would be something a well-respected agricultural college would offer. I'll make note of ALS and try contacting them this summer when the soil has warmed up. Thanks!

Pnbrown, I doubt copper sulfate is restricted here so much as if there's no demand, then shops simply don't carry it. If I want any variety selection in white potatoes, I have to go to the city to get them because our local greenhouse carries only red varieties and a few bags of russets. He said he can't sell them to the rural gardeners, who are obsessed with planting reds.

I'm headed to Saskatoon next weekend, so I'll check out that product, SO. Thanks! Ericwi, I'll also jot down the stuff you suggested and ask about it there as well. Early's has some very knowledgeable staff, but they're not always working when I visit, so fingers crossed.

No, no pesticide applicator's licence here, SO. *chuckle* I'm just a lowly backyard gardener. :)

Edited to add a clarification on my original post above... The supplement I use is not from the same people who did the seminar. My horse is a very "easy keeper" and it wouldn't be healthy for him to eat enough of the their fortified grains to get the level of supplementation he needs. (I was concerned that I sounded a bit gullible to sales pitches above.) I use a pelleted supplement available from Early's and elsewhere. He was strictly on local mixed hay until I found a supplier of pure timothy about two and a half hours north of us. Interestingly, he did not need the supplement when he was on that hay. It was only on the local hay that his hooves showed decline. Unfortunately, that supplier sold his timothy field a few years later and it was ploughed under for a new crop. We're back on local hay with the supplement again.

This post was edited by macky77 on Mon, Mar 17, 14 at 3:05

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 2:52AM
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If you are able to locate Spanish River Carbonatite, you might be able to speak with someone in sales who knows something about your local soil. Off the top of my head, I would think that copper carbonate would be a chemical compound that might be readily taken up by plants. However, I do not know if copper carbonate is marketed as an agricultural soil amendment.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 10:35AM
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Are we talking about a very big garden, or a more typical 1000 sq ft or so? If the latter, it might be cheaper to get a couple bags of azomite or a couple gallons of concentrated liquid seaweed and make up your shortfalls that way, and easier than trying to spread super-concetrated salts in the fine powdery form. IME it is difficult to keep those salts from getting damp, and once damp they are impossible to spread. I guess one can dry them in a low oven.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 4:00PM
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Do you note any low fertility in your garden? Because zinc and copper are far more important for animals than for plants. Indeed, with low zinc one of the first things to go is the strength of your nails (white spots), or hooves if you are a horse.

The Midwest soil is generically low in zinc, and if you have alkaline soil, the problem is worse, but if you get full crops, all you need for your horse is a salt lick. For yourself, if you eat beef (from an animal that had access to a salt lick), you have enough zinc. If you eat a bit of liver you get more than enough copper.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 6:33PM
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Pnbrown, I'm using approximately 3,500 sq. ft. of my available garden space this year. Anything I add to the garden in small quantities is first mixed thoroughly with a more bulky amendment such as seed meal.

Glib, I don't know anyone with livestock who would not provide them free-choice access to a salt block at all times, including myself. He's always had access to one and his feet still deteriorated. Perhaps you're speaking of mineral blocks? Yes, we have those here, but they're formulated for cattle, not horses. You can get smaller ones for horses, but my guy chews them up like candy within a week. The supplement he's receiving is perfect for him. That issue was resolved years ago. I was just giving a bit of a background there. :)

This post was edited by macky77 on Mon, Mar 17, 14 at 19:07

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 6:59PM
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does it have zinc? The blocks here in the midwest have iodine, selenium and zinc. Anyhow, I have poor soil in the orchard (I put down 30+ tons of wood chips, but it will be a few years), so I bought a 3 gallons of foliar feeding solution to mix with the regular spray, for the first two years. It has everything. I will continue it for the grapes later, since grapes are not supposed to be planted in pH=7.6 soil.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 10:28PM
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Most copper and zinc in the human diet comes from meat (or for vegetarians, from beans, nuts and grains), but not vegetables. So I think you should be fine as long are your plants are healthy and not showing signs of micronutrient deficiency (which should correct itself once you get the pH below 7).

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 2:27PM
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