Calcium Carbonate Equivalent

"Calcium carbonate equivalent" is the quantity of carbonate (CO3) in the soil expressed as CaCO3 and as a weight percentage of the less than 2 mm size fraction.

The availability of plant nutrients is influenced by the amount of carbonates in the soil. This is a result of the effect that carbonates have on soil pH and of the direct effect that carbonates have on nutrient availability. Nitrogen fertilizers should be incorporated into calcareous soils to prevent nitrite accumulation or ammonium-N volatilization. The availability of phosphorus and molybdenum is reduced by the high levels of calcium and magnesium which are associated with carbonates. In addition, iron, boron, zinc, and manganese deficiencies are common in soils that have a high calcium carbonate equivalent. In some climates, soils that have a high calcium carbonate equivalent in the surface layer are subject to wind erosion. This effect may occur in soils that have a calcium carbonate equivalent of more than 5 percent. A strongly or violently effervescent reaction to cold, dilute hydrochloric acid (HCL) defines calcareous in the wind erodibility groups because of the significance of finely divided carbonates.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. National soil survey handbook, title 430-VI. Available online. Accessed 9/13/2012.