«Lime is like a magic potion»

Peter Briner, CEO of Peter Briner AG, shows the benefits of lime hydrate for farming, having emanated from the filters of KFN’s production.

Peter Briner AG specializes in organic farm fertilizer and recycled manure. For a number of years, the company also offers hydrated lime. This is a by-product created by the burning and slaking of lime, captured in the filters of KFN. Why lime is crucial for fertile grounds and what other benefits hydrated lime has to offer in farming explains Peter Briner. Being the founder and CEO of Peter Briner AG, he has occupied himself for over 30 years with the optimum nutrient supply for farm soils.

Since the creation of the company in 1988 your trade has been organic fertilizers. These days, that’s mostly biogas manure as well as pig and cow manure. When using these fertilizers, what does one have to keep in mind to make soils fertile, or to keep them fertile?

Of basic importance is that the nutrient needs of the plants cultivated are met. Depending on the farmed species, these can vary hugely. However, they all need nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and calcium. It’s all about enriching the soil with the right amount of the crucial substances, making them available for the plants.

How can lime support this task?

Lime helps to mobilize the nutrients in the right amount. When we check soils, we often find that there is enough phosphorus, potassium etc. What is missing is lime, acting as a catalyst, which is why on these soils, enough nutrients notwithstanding, almost nothing apart from weed is growing. Which is why we look at the usage of lime for the past 20 years. We used to mainly utilize lime raw meal. This takes its time, however, before becoming useful in the soil.

How is that different from the hydrated lime that you use these days?

Hydrated lime, or slaked quicklime, is soluble in water. This makes calcium almost instantly available as soon as hydrated lime is added to the soil. Consequently, the process of making all the other nutrients available to the plants is sped up considerably.

What other benefits are there for using lime in farming?

Lime is like a magic potion. It enhances the water storage capacity of the soil, optimizes the structure, sees to a good ventilation and is also supportive to a healthy soil life. Additionally, slaked lime in large quantities also has a sanitizing effect. As it is very alkaline, slaked lime can cause a pH shock for a short time. In the course of this, a pH value of 12 to 13 is reached, naturally fighting many pests and fungi. Clubroot, for example, a fungal disease affecting some types of cabbage, can effectively be fought with hydrated lime.

Does more hydrated lime mean better soils?

As with all other nutrients, also in the case of calcium it is important to find the right measure. What’s most important is to counter the lime losses caused by growing grain, vegetables etc. Depending on the pH value of the soil and the plants farmed, however, it can sometimes make sense to use more hydrated lime. It all depends on the circumstances of each single case.

You have been working with KFN for a number of years now. How did this collaboration start?

A business friend of mine brought KFN to my attention. I then was part of a meeting where I met Oliver Rohner. I was impressed how knowledgeable he was when it came to the use of lime in farming. When he invited me over for a visit, I went to Netstal. There, Oliver Rohner pointed out the possibilities of using the so-called oversized grain from lime production in a farming context. His considerable know-how convinced me, so in the end we became business partners.

Farmers, too, increasingly look at sustainability issues. With this in mind, what development do you expect for your business?

We already put our weight behind a fertilization that supports plants in their growth while at the same time not negatively affecting rivers etc. This can be achieved inter alia with modern application techniques. Apart from that, in the near future new potentials to make farming more sustainable will be unlocked. I think that lime, too, will change some things in that aspect. We are sure to continue monitoring KFN’s innovations.