Crushed Oyster shell fertiliser

Discussion in 'Put Your Questions to the Experts!' started by deenhall, May 24, 2015.

  1. deenhall

    deenhall New Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2015
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I have obtained the following analysis of crushed oyster shell and am interested in its application as a fertiliser for Grass growing or Vegetable gardens, or Orchards (dependant on soil analysis). I'm very interested in comments, feedback, anyone with previous experience using oyster and/or green lipped mussel shell.

    CO3 = 56%
    Calcium = 37.7%
    Magnesium = 1.2%
    Sulphur = 0.74%
    Sodium = 0.56%
    Phosphorus = 0.21%
     
  2. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2014
    Messages:
    607
    Likes Received:
    83
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Arkansas Senior Appraiser
    Location:
    Vilonia, Arkansas, deep in the woods
    Climate:
    USDA zone 7b,8a.
    The first thing to do, before you start adding that as a fertilizer or amendment, is to get a soil test. It is possible that you don't need the acidity that the sulphur will induce, the calcium level may prevent the uptake of magnesium and other important trace minerals. Calcium is not as harmful as others may indicate, but without a soil test before hand, it is possible to do more harm than good with any amendment or fertilizer.

    I test my soil for each area and then make my adjustments for what is going to be growing in the space. Here's an example that has occurred on our homestead.
    I have to get some oyster shell to amend my blueberry patch this year as I have to lower the pH and get more calcium, manganese and magnesium into the soil where the blueberries are located.
     
  3. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2006
    Messages:
    3,046
    Likes Received:
    199
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    E Washington, USA
    Climate:
    Semi-Arid Shrub Steppe (BsK)
    Not quite sure of your intent with this idea deenhall ... it sounds like you're thinking of a commercial endeavour?
    Oyster shells are a critical component of not only oyster communities (necessary substrate for oyster spawn to adhere to), but also a multitude of other species.

    https://www.habitat.noaa.gov/pdf/value_of_oysters.pdf

    While oyster shell's value as a fertilizer (hopefully not for grass) might be high, it's value in the natural environment as "reef" is priceless.
    Am I misreading your question??
     
  4. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2014
    Messages:
    607
    Likes Received:
    83
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Arkansas Senior Appraiser
    Location:
    Vilonia, Arkansas, deep in the woods
    Climate:
    USDA zone 7b,8a.
    I agree with you on not destroying any habitat bill, I get my oyster shell from the local oyster bar in the Big City (LOL, 300k is not my idea of big city but here in Arkansas it is). They used to send the empty shells to the land fill but now I have convinced them to keep the "refuse" separated for me to pick up. I then grind the shells and use them on the homestead for calcium supplements and soil amendment when needed. What I don't use, I have available for others in the area, I suppose I could sell this material but I prefer to make the left over shells available for free, it builds friendships for us since we are the new folks in town.
     
  5. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2013
    Messages:
    1,780
    Likes Received:
    142
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Occupation:
    gardening, reading, etc
    Location:
    near St. Charles, MI, USoA
    Home Page:
    Climate:
    -15C-35C, 10cm rain/mo, clay, full sun, K-G Dfa=x=Dfb
    i was thinking because of the calcium that this would raise pH and not lower it?

    isn't a part of the current ocean acidity problem the fact that the acid dissolves the shells?

    if that is true i would not use it on blueberries as they like acidic soils.

    also, i would see it as a good product to use instead of putting it in a landfill, but i would not want it if it was being mined from the ocean reefs. i suppose if one could find a green concrete and use this as a part of the fill for the concrete then it would be a good substrate for ocean reef restoration projects...
     
  6. deenhall

    deenhall New Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2015
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    In New Zealand there are many sea based Oyster farms and the farmers pay to have the shell disposed in land fills. I'm considering the opportunity to process the shell as a domestic and agricultural fertiliser, on the basis that it could be used as a potential replacement for Lime (which is used extensively on our clay soils). The comments received so far are very useful.
     
  7. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2014
    Messages:
    607
    Likes Received:
    83
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Arkansas Senior Appraiser
    Location:
    Vilonia, Arkansas, deep in the woods
    Climate:
    USDA zone 7b,8a.
    Sixteen nutrients are essential for plant growth and living organisms in the soil. These fall in two different categories namely macro- and micronutrients. The macronutrients include Carbon (C), Oxygen (O), Hydrogen (H), Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K), Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), Sulhpur (S) and are the most essential nutrients to plant development whereby a high quantity of these is needed. The micronutrients on the other hand are needed in smaller amounts, however they are still crucial for plant development and growth, these include Iron (Fe), Zinc (Zn), Manganese (Mn), Boron (B), Copper (Cu), Molybdenum (Mo) and Chlorine (Cl). Nearly all plant nutrients are taken up in ionic forms from the soil solution as cations or as anions.

    In my case the soil test shows that there is a dire lack of calcium and some other minerals, the fact that there is a sulphur component of ground oyster shell means that there will be a buffer effect on the addition of non ionic calcium from the shells. As the shell born - free calcium becomes ionized I will need to add more sulphur for acidification but I can live with that since I am trying to get the blueberry soil balanced as fast as possible. If you use ground shell material with moderation (I have plans for approximately 28 grams of shell per bush along with 18 grams of sulfur to maintain acidity then test again to see how well it went. The soil where I have my blueberry bushes is well drained, sandy, stoney loam the organic matter is currently 2.5 percent low and the current acidity is only 6.8. I need to get the minerals put back in and lower the pH to 5.6 so my bushes will thrive. I may discover that I will need to modify the calcium content of the shell material by dropping out a lot of the calcium by flocculation, since I have the equipment and knowledge to do this it is a viable option for me.

    Among the more common cations found in soils are hydrogen (H+), aluminum (Al+3), calcium (Ca+2), magnesium (Mg+2), and potassium (K+). Most heavy metals also exist as cations in the soil environment. Clay and organic matter particles are predominantly negatively charged (anions), and have the ability to hold cations from being “leached” or washed away. The adsorbed cations are subject to replacement by other cations in a rapid, reversible process called “cation exchange”. Cations leaving the exchange sites enter the soil solution, where they can be taken up by plants, react with other soil constituents, or be carried away with drainage water.

    The “cation exchange capacity”, or “CEC”, of a soil is a measurement of the magnitude of the negative charge per unit weight of soil, or the amount of cations a particular sample of soil can hold in an exchangeable form. The greater the clay and organic matter content, the greater the CEC should be, although different types of clay minerals and organic matter can vary in CEC.

    Cation exchange plays an important role in wastewater treatment in soils. Sandy soils with a low CEC are generally unsuited for septic systems since they have little adsorptive ability and there is potential for groundwater. This is a good place to add cations such as those that can be found in ground or crushed oyster shell. Since I get shells from a restaurant, they are not wild but rather farmed shells, so I don't see how the use of these shells would effect the environment, they are not part of a reef or even a natural occurance of oysters.

    The current ocean acidity problem is from "acid rains" created by human manufacturing processes and the governmental allowance of sulfur and other cation building paricles to be pumped into the air, along with natural occurances such as volcanic eruptions, the combination is causing the oceans to be affected.
     
  8. deenhall

    deenhall New Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2015
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Thankyou for such a comprehensive disertation.
     
  9. andrew curr

    andrew curr Moderator

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2010
    Messages:
    1,194
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    38
    I would like to be a mussel farmer when i grow up!!
    Sounds like a great idea deenhall ! I asume you are able to get the waste cheap!!

    Could be a good poultry additive!
     
  10. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2006
    Messages:
    3,046
    Likes Received:
    199
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    E Washington, USA
    Climate:
    Semi-Arid Shrub Steppe (BsK)
    Wow. Here in Washington state, if you order oysters on the half shell, the shells are collected after your meal to be sent back to the oyster farm. In your case saving such resources from a landfill is noble work!
     
  11. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2014
    Messages:
    607
    Likes Received:
    83
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Arkansas Senior Appraiser
    Location:
    Vilonia, Arkansas, deep in the woods
    Climate:
    USDA zone 7b,8a.
    That is great news Bill. Here I think it is impractical for them to do that since we are so far from the gulf, it's the only reason I can think of that they would not help build the shells of new oysters by returning them to the beds.
    I get mine free since it keeps the oyster bars refuse cost down. I first brought it up to them when there enjoying a dozen and when I found out they just threw them in the trash I had to ask the question of letting me recycle them so they didn't go to the landfill.
     
  12. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2013
    Messages:
    1,780
    Likes Received:
    142
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Occupation:
    gardening, reading, etc
    Location:
    near St. Charles, MI, USoA
    Home Page:
    Climate:
    -15C-35C, 10cm rain/mo, clay, full sun, K-G Dfa=x=Dfb
    ok, Bryant, i see you are adding sulfur too for keeping acid levels intact.

    yes, if you're far from the ocean then it's good if you can find an alternate local reuse of the material.

    yes i'd vote it a likely good chicken grit source and a viable replacement for crushed limestone (that is what the famers in this area use by the truckload to amend their fields).

    also you can add some to compost piles or earthworm beds (composting worms may be ok with it too, but i'd only add a little to them as they are more organic material digesters). also could be used in aquaponics and as a reedbed substrate.
     
  13. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2014
    Messages:
    607
    Likes Received:
    83
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Arkansas Senior Appraiser
    Location:
    Vilonia, Arkansas, deep in the woods
    Climate:
    USDA zone 7b,8a.
    Thanks for those tips songbird, I have not started the aquaphonics , that is still pretty far in the future. We should be moving onto the homestead in the next couple of months and that will be a great boon to getting more done since we will be living there at that point.
    I have used it for the chooks, good calcium source for them, and I can use if for lime substitute in a few garden plots but most of our land is already at a good pH level. Compost heaps I had not really thought of either but will start adding some to those.
     
  14. Jason in SC

    Jason in SC New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2017
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    Gender:
    Male
    Climate:
    Zone 7-8 boundary in northwestern South Carolina.
    This is a great thread for information on oyster shells. In SC, as part of having a salt water fishing license, you are permitted to harvest 2 bushels of oysters per day from designated waters (those not protected). I make the trip to the Charleston area once a year and collect my two bushels and bring them back to my house in the mountains about 3.5 hours away. This is usually around the holidays but this year it was last week so I missed my Christmas Oysters - bummer - but on a good note I am enjoying them now!
    Anyway, my reason for doing this has always been multi-functional - I enjoy the oysters for food. Indeed oysters Rockefeller are one of my favorites and nutritionally you cannot find a better source of digestible zinc and they are also high in B vitamins. At the end of this (normally) holiday tradition I am left with almost a wheelbarrow full of shells. This part is intentional as I also raise chickens. Shells go into buckets filled with fresh water for a day and then are dumped out on dry ground to sit in the sun for three days and then I take a t-post driver (or fence post driver) and smash them repeatedly on a concrete surface (driveway). Then I pour them through a screen which is made of hardware cloth 1/2". Anything that does not pass is used for a different application. . Everything that does pass is screened again through a much smaller screen just slightly larger than a window screen. Everything that passes through that is like a course sand and I use that to supplement calcium for my chickens for the year and I have been experimenting with making my own version of diatomaceous earth.

    The material that does not pass through the 1/2" hardware cloth is put in its own bucket. It has particles that range in size from just a bit larger than a course sand to slightly smaller than a dime. At this time I clean out the chicken coop and rake it into a wheelbarrow or wagon. Now it is time to get out my little ol' lawn spreader. (The same type of cheap push spreader that you can pick up from Lowe's or elsewhere.) My chicken coop is lined with saw dust as an absorbent/bedding. I don't use too much - maybe an inch to line the floor - so when I go to clean out the coop the composition of the manure is roughly 60% sawdust and 40% actual chicken poop. This makes a great fertilizer; in fact poultry fertilizer is prized over that of cow, pig or horse greatly, but it does not pass very efficiently through a push spreader. The reason for this is that it is so light - it weighs so little that it takes almost half of an hour and a ton of frustration to run circles around the yard trying to just spread out a spreader-bucket full of chicken poop. Hang in there with me, there is a point to all of this.

    Oyster shells are heavy for a given volume. A five gallon bucket of crushed oyster shells is indeed a chore to carry. But in them I found what I needed to mix with the chicken manure to get it to pass more quickly through the push spreader. It was like a marriage made in Heaven! All the strong nutritional value of the chicken manure with the acidic soil neutralizing properties of the oyster shells - plus the high calcium content and the correct weight displacement to make it realistically usable in a push spreader.

    I use this homemade fertilizer blend first on the grain field, which this time of year is perfect because it has been planted in red hard winter wheat that is in (my estimation) about stage 2-3 on the Feekes scale. It is certainly tillering so around this time of year is great for a nitrogen application. But because chicken manure is also almost equally high in P and K I spread this blend over my vegetable garden area, fruit trees, fruit vines and canes (not blueberries), and even my lawn if there is any left.

    I feel as though the results have been great but I have not been able to isolate my findings on this particular method (of fertilization) because throughout the year I have a number of different fertilization methods that I use to accelerate plant growth and regulate pH levels. I aim my fertilization schedule to coincide with the time of year that a given crop needs the specific nutrients. My holiday oyster trip to Charleston, enjoyable as it is to go, and as favorable as the holiday tradition is to enjoy oysters Rockefeller, it still only seems to coincide (as a fertilizer application) with red hard winter wheat fertilization. The secondary crop with which I aim to see reliable and demonstrable growth is onions, but again I have not kept records. There are also the few collards, broccoli and turnips that I have in the winter garden ( a few lettuce also). Other nutrients may be leeching out of the garden before spring plants are sown. I just don't know - I do not have that much of a detailed analysis of the nutrient flow.

    As far as the oyster shell recycling - as brought up by Gandolf. I appreciate that you brought this up. If efforts had not been taken in South Carolina and other areas back in the 1980's and 1990's then I do not know what may have happened. But the efforts were taken and the shells were saved and they were placed in areas to encourage oyster bed growth, which have worked. And now the SCDNR has opened up areas for public oyster harvest. People & restaurants within 50 miles of the coast are encouraged to continue to return the shells to the recycling areas.

    As for me, I live 3.5 hours away, I can recycle also - just not like the people that live close to the coast are. Instead I crush the oyster shells and spread them over my land to be incorporated into the soil and taken up by the plants and consumed by humans and chickens and other animals - who in turn deposit the nutrients back into the soil. And the remaining nutrients and the returned nutrients are transported over time, by rain and erosion and stormwater flow, into the streams and then rivers that flow back into the backwaters and estuaries where the oysters feed and take back up the nutrients once again several years or even decades later.

    I understand that it is the structure of oyster shells that is desired in the creation of new oyster beds, but I have personally seen oysters take "root" in concrete bridge pylons, rock, mud, plastic buoys, wooden docks and even rope. Oysters are very resilient and they have been protected and the locals and I respect those protections and we only go where we are permitted and oyster populations are not harmed.

    I like my seasonal system, I enjoy the holiday tradition of Oyster Rockefeller with friends, I appreciate the heavy weight that crushed oyster shells gives my chicken poop fertilizer application in the winter months, and my hens appreciate the added benefit of sand-sized oyster shell crumbles AND I appreciate that I can experiment with making my own diatomaceous earth-type of insecticide (early trials inconclusive - but I am excited about the 2017 growing season). The zinc, calcium, copper and other seafaring minerals have been returned (in small amounts) to the mountainous region where they begin their journey once again to the ocean.

    All in all I like my system; I hope that I am not missing something but if so I am open to how and why this little portion of my system may be overall harmful.
    Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2017
  15. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2013
    Messages:
    1,780
    Likes Received:
    142
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Occupation:
    gardening, reading, etc
    Location:
    near St. Charles, MI, USoA
    Home Page:
    Climate:
    -15C-35C, 10cm rain/mo, clay, full sun, K-G Dfa=x=Dfb
    Jason, the only thing that you write that sounds iffy is the diatomaceous earth
    replacement. DE is a very sharp glass shell from a microbe. it is not likely to
    be replaced by crushed shells. DE is non-specific, so i have rarely used it...

    i enjoy your description of crushing them and am always glad to see materials
    reused and recycled instead of ending up in a landfill.
     

Share This Page

-->