6675 Highway 15
Seeleys Bay, ON K0H 2N0

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Wollastonite at work in a Tropical No-Till System

Surface application of limestone and calcium-magnesium silicate in a tropical no-tillage system

Research paper summary
Although lime is currently the most commonly applied material for soil acidity correction in Brazil, calcium- magnesium silicate application may efficiently replace this source due to its higher solubility and silicon supply, which is beneficial for plant development. This study aimed to evaluate the efficiency of surface liming and silicate application on soil chemical attributes as well as soybean and maize nutrition, yield components, and grain yield. The experiment was conducted in a Rhodic Hapludox in Botucatu-SP, Brazil. After 18 months Ca-Mg silicate corrected soil acidity up to 0.60 m and increased exchangeable base levels up to 0.40 m. Silicate increased silicon concentrations in plant tissues in both crops as well as phosphorus in soybean. The application of both sources increased calcium and magnesium concentrations as well as yield components and yield grains of soybean and maize. Soil acidity correction improved the efficiency of fertilizers applied for grain production.

Read the full abstract and paper: Surface application of limestone and calcium-magnesium silicate in a tropical no-tillage system.pdf

New Ontario based research on the carbon dioxide sequestering power of Wollastonite

Canadian Wollastonite is a partner in this project lead by Emily Chiang in the School of Environment at the University of Guelph. The potential of Canadian Wollastonite to have a positive impact on our environment and improve agricultural crop quality is fascinating and we look forward to supporting this research as it moves forward.

Carbon-sequestering fertilizers for augmented carbon storage capacity of agricultural soils

Abbreviated summary:

The weathering of basic silicate minerals and subsequent precipitation of stable Ca- and Mg-carbonates is the main geological process removing CO2 and controlling its concentration in the atmosphere. Enhanced weathering can sequester CO2 at an accelerated pace, by exposing milled minerals to CO2 in the air and within soils. Sequestration capacity is proportional to mineral application rate and land area coverage. To achieve the sequestration of meaningful amounts of CO2, while keeping costs low and logistics simple, agricultural lands will be targeted for implementation. Agricultural activities require extensive areas and regularly apply large quantities of materials to the land. Hence, existing infrastructure for fertilizer application can be used to spread the novel fertilizer blends developed by this project, enabling widespread contact for CO2 sequestration.

This project will formulate fertilizer blends that include basic minerals as carbon-sinks, test these fertilizers in laboratory and field trials, and validate enhanced weathering as a means to increase the fixed carbon content of agricultural soils. The fertilizer blends will be tested to determine weathering rates, carbon sequestration capacity, and effects on nutrient uptake, plant growth and toxicity. Detection and accounting of sequestered carbon will aid the development of cap-and-trade carbon-credits policy.

The end result of this project will be the delivery of a new environmental protection tool for the agricultural sector in Ontario, the formation of new partnerships with regional industries and rural communities, and advancement of the state-of-knowledge on climate change mitigation.

Full summary: LCIF Summary – Emily Chiang.pdf




Wollastonite in Water: A Clear Difference!

Last month, we discussed the role of wollastonite in managing phosphorus.

That prompted some Ontario residents to begin experimenting with adding wollastonite to pond water. With the recent heat and drought across much of the province, ponds and small bodies of water on farms, golf courses, and rural properties are especially subject to excessive algal growth – an unpleasant and unhealthy condition, as these photos demonstrate.

Pond waters choked with algae before treatment with wollastonite.

This algae growth is caused by excess nutrients in the water (eutrophication) – primarily phosphorus and nitrogen. When wollastonite is added to the water, the calcium silicate molecules begin to dissolve, creating opportunities for the excess phosphorus in the water to bond with the calcium to create stable molecules of a substances called apatite.

Without excess phosphorus, the algae doesn’t proliferate, restoring balance and clear water. As an added bonus, the silicon ions help promote healthy plant growth – many aquatic and semi-aquatic plant species thrive on high levels of silicon!

When this theory was put to the test the results were remarkable. Only three days after the addition of wollastonite, the algae levels were significantly lower. The effects have been long-term, too – while other, untreated ponds on the property are increasingly clogged with algae, the treated pond remains relatively clear.  In this case, the wollastonite was hand broadcast into the pond from the shoreline at a rate of 68kg per one acre pond with an average depth of 3 metres.

Three days after treatment with wollastonite, the pond is visibly cleaner.

Three weeks after wollastonite application. (Source – Fairgreen Sod Farm, Markham, Ontario)

Other businesses are starting to take note. A livestock farmer is keeping his water supply free from algae by adding wollastonite to his herd’s water troughs. A golf course has ordered large quanitities of wollastonite to treat their water features.

Wollastonite: a white mineral for a green world…and blue water!

Wollastonite: A win-win for sustainable phosphorus management

In the summers of 2014 and 2015, massive algal blooms in Lake Erie made headlines across North America, particularly in 2014 when toxins produced by microcysts in the blue-green algae shut down Toledo’s water works, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without access to safe drinking water. The problem affects lake and rivers across the continent, threatening human health, wildlife populations, recreational opportunities, and commercial fisheries. With the warmer summers associated with climate change, the problem is only expected to get worse.

Phosphorus run-off from point sources like factories and sewage treatment plants and non-point sources like lawns and farm fields is the primary culprit behind these harmful outbreaks. Numerous efforts are underway to reduce the amount of phosphorus finding its way into our waterways. A growing body of research indicates that wollastonite is effective at capturing phosphorus from water in a number of applications.

Several studies demonstrate that wollastonite can be very effective at removing phosphorus from municipal wastewater treatments systems, particularly in constructed wetlands. Ongoing research in Ontario also suggests that wollastonite will adsorb significant amounts of phosphorus from greenhouse nutrient solutions. These point sources tend to have relatively high concentrations of phosphorus.

Recent research demonstrates that wollastonite powder is the most effective option for adsorbing phosphorus from water that has a relatively low concentration of phosphate but is still prone to algal blooms. While other substances were less effective at adsorbing phosphate as the phosphorus concentration in the solution decreased, wollastonite powder remained effective. It removed more phosphorus, a higher percentage of total phosphorus, and worked faster at all concentrations tested. This is likely due to the particle size of the powdered wollastonite, the porosity of the material, and the chemistry of the substance.

While some substances remove phosphorus by precipitation, which renders it practically immobile, phosphates adsorbed onto wollastonite molecules are less tightly bound and can re-enter the phosphorus cycle when environmental conditions are appropriate. This means that the wollastonite used to remove phosphorus from water sources where it isn’t needed or wanted can be re-used as a fertilizer source of calcium, magnesium, silicon, and phosphorus. Recycling phosphorus in this way not only protects waterways: it helps preserve dwindling phosphate deposits used for agricultural fertilizers –  a win-win for sustainability!

Re-Blog: Silica – The Hidden Cost of Chemicals

Interest in the role of silicon in crop production and protection has been growing around the world for several years now. Some might say that North America is a bit behind the curve! We recently came across a comprehensive article from 2010 on the website of an Australian agricultural consulting company. It begins:

A major mineral is missing in many soils and most soil tests do not even monitor its presence. This mineral can increase stress resistance, boost photosynthesis and chlorophyll content, improve drought resistance, salt tolerance and soil fertility and prevent lodging. It can also reduce insect pressure, frost damage and destructive disease while lowering irrigation rates, neutralising heavy metal toxicity and countering the negative effects of excess sodium. If I were to tell you that this same missing mineral can increase root growth, boost yield and enhance crop quality, you could well ask, “how could we have overlooked something so important?” and you would be correct. It has been a serious oversight. The mineral in question is silicon, and science is rapidly revealing the scope and scale of our silicon neglect.

The article goes on to describe the role of silicon in cell wall resilience, photosynthesis and mineral uptake, abiotic and biotic stress management, plant immune response, and even human health! It concludes:

Proactivity is the essence of the biological approach. If you understand how plants protect themselves, then you provide the necessary components to maximise that process and minimise the need for chemical intervention. In this context, silicon is an essential pre-requisite for proactive pest and stress management and should be an integral part of every good nutrition program.

Click here to read the complete article.

Wollastonite from Canadian Wollastonite is a natural, mined calcium silicate with the demonstrated ability to increase levels of silicon in plants when used as a soil amendment.

A Natural Solution to Control Grub Damage?

Last summer, an interesting thing happened on a field of turf north of Toronto. The grower was testing a new soil amendment as a source of calcium, magnesium, and plant-available silicon. Research indicated it could lead to healthier, more disease-resistant grass. Sure enough, the grass on the test area grew better –  so much better that the grower had to dig deeper to find out what was going on. To their surprise, the soil under the treated area was free of the white grubs that were feeding on the roots of nearby grass, stunting its growth.

White grubs are the larval stage of a number of species of beetles. Although grass roots are their preferred food source, grubs feed on the roots of a number of plants, including corn, soybeans, legumes, and cereals. Depending on the species, grubs remain in the soil for one to three years. At elevated populations, grubs stunt, weaken, and delay plant growth and can even kill young seedlings or plants experiencing other stresses (i.e. drought). 

“Could it be the soil amendment?” they wondered. Collecting some grubs, they exposed them directly to the material. Within minutes, something about the mineral literally made the grubs curl up and die.

The mineral was wollastonite from Canadian Wollastonite, a newly opened mine in Kingston, Ontario.

Repeated trials last summer and research over the past few months has started to confirm what was happening to those grubs. In technical terms, wollastonite has an acicular crystal structure at the microscopic level. Acicular means “shaped like a needle.” When grubs come into contact with wollastonite, its needle-like crystals pierce and lacerate their soft bodies, leading to dessication (drying out) and death.

Electron microscope images show the needle-like crystals of wollastonite and its effect on larva.

This type of pest control action is well-known in the case of diatomaceous earth (DE), which is used to control insects on plants and in stored grains. However, DE also absorbs water quickly, which softens its edges and makes it less effective. Wollastonite stays “sharp” in moist conditions, making it an ideal addition to soils.

More turf managers and homeowners are starting to experiment with wollastonite. It’s beginning to appear that the wollastonite crystals even discourage the digging activity of raccoons and skunks who are well-known for tearing up lawns in search of grubs.

With increasing concerns about the impact of pesticides on our environment and on pollinators in particular, everyone from farmers to homeowners are looking for more natural, less risky ways to keep their fields and lawns healthy and productive. Stay tuned for more research and reports on the potential for Canadian Wollastonite to help reach these goals.

Video: Silicon, A Valuable Fungicide

Canadian Wollastonite isn’t the only organization doing research on the value of plant-available silicon in agriculture. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, in partnership with Laval University, and Les Fraises de l”Ile-d’Orléans is investigating how supplying soluble silicon to strawberry plants can increase resistance to diseases like powdery mildew and reduce the application of fungicides.

Watch the 5-minute video below to learn more about the role of silicon in promoting resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses and the current research project in organic strawberry production. A text summary of the project can be found here.

Introducing … Canadian Wollastonite!

Welcome to the Canadian Wollastonite blog. This is where we’ll share the latest information on our activities, whether they’re happening at the mine site, at research facilities, or on farms and gardens.

In the first post, we’ll give a brief overview of our research activities and the on-farm trials that have been taking place over the summer and fall of 2015. As these experiments conclude and more results arrive, we’ll highlight each in more detail in future articles.

There’s growing awareness of and interest in the role of silicon in sustainable agriculture, and farmers across North America are beginning to incorporate silicon-rich soil amendments into their operations. Several of these growers have been experimenting with Canadian Wollastonite. Here are some examples:

  • Vegetable growers in Quebec are applying Canadian Wollastonite to squash and pumpkin fields to increase pest and disease resistance and to greenhouse soils to mitigate sodium build-up
  • Hops producers are experimenting with Canadian Wollastonite to address powdery mildew
  • Dairy farmers in Pennsylvania are applying Canadian Wollastonite to alfalfa fields
  • Turfgrass growers are spreading Canadian Wollastonite and observing better colour, more vigour, and reduced grub populations

Research Projects

To support the existing body of research on wollastonite and calcium silicates and in order to provide accurate information for local and regional crops and growing conditions, Canadian Wollastonite is supporting a number of Ontario-based research trials. A successful grant application to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affair’s Rural Economic Development (RED) Program has made several of these projects possible.

  • At the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus, researchers are looking at the role of Canadian Wollastonite on the incidence and severity of powdery mildew in winter squash crops. They are comparing Canadian Wollastonite against agricultural lime (calcium carbonate) and a foliar silicate-based fungicide.
  • Researchers at Guelph’s Soil Resource Group are growing a variety of crops in both the field and greenhouse pots to look at the effect of varying levels of Canadian Wollastonite supplementation. Crops include wheat, soybeans, green beans, sunflowers, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, spinach, and melons. They are evaluating a number of criteria including: plant mass and quality, fruit yield and quality, resistance to water stress and disease pressure, and nutrient and silicon concentrations in plants and soil/media
  • Canadian Wollastonite is one of several materials being evaluated for its ability to remove phosphorus from greenhouse wastewater over the course of a 3-year study.
  • OMAFRA has also included Canadian Wollastonite in research aimed at reducing nutrient leaching from container nurseries.

You can find more links to research on wollastonite, calcium silicates, and the role of silicon in agriculture and environmental management by visiting our research page. As you can see, there will be lots of material for future blog posts as these research projects are completed and as we continue to learn more about the potential for Canadian Wollastonite to contribute to a cleaner, greener future.