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The truth about deicers and plants

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Snow and ice are common in Indiana around the winter months. We have already experienced enough to last a year in many individual's eyes.

Often, when we are trying to get rid of the snow and ice, we find ourselves using deicers.

If you are one of the many who use deicers, listen up to the following information on deicers since they can damage your plants.

There are numerous types of deicers available.

The five common chemicals used for deicers are Calcium Chloride, Sodium Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Urea and Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA). Calcium Chloride gives off heat as it melts, which allows it to melt at lower temperatures.

Sodium Chloride is considered as rock salt. It is relatively inexpensive but can damage plants. Likewise, it can damage metal and concrete.

Potassium Chloride is naturally occurring. It is used as a fertilizer and as a food salt substitute.

It can cause foliage burn on your plants along with damaging their root system. The reason for that is because of its high salt index.

Urea is primarily used as nitrogen based fertilizer. When compared to the previous two deicers, it is less likely to cause damage to your plants unless too much is used. Instead, it might cause your turf to grow excessively in the spring.

Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA) is a newer deicing agent. It is salt-free and made from dolomitic limestone and acetic acid. CMA causes little impact on plants making it a good environmentally friendly deicer when compared to the others.

Deicers should not be used to completely melt the snow or ice. Instead, you should use them to make snow removal easier. Once the snow or ice is partially melted, try to shovel or plow it away. If left there to melt completely, you stand a chance of the chemical spreading onto your plants and into the soil.

This could ultimately harm your plants.

The following trees and shrubs are sensitive to having salt that is used as a deicer touching them: American Hornbean, Hackberry, Eastern Redbud, Hawthorn, American Beech, Tuliptree, Crabapple, Black Cherry, Dogwood, American Elder, Spirea, and Viburnum.

In comparison, Silver Maple, White Ash, Black Walnut, Mock Orange, Eastern Redcedar, and Jack Pine are tolerant of having salt touching them. For a complete list of plants and their sensitivity to deicers, check out the University of Nebraska publication G1121, "Winter Deicing Agents for the Homeowner," which may be accessed online.

There are still a few spots left for the Landscaping Program Jan. 29, in Clay County. If you would like to sign up, please call 448-9041 today. The program is free and runs from 9 a.m.-noon.

As always, if you have any questions or would like information on any agriculture, horticulture or natural resource topic, then please contact your local Purdue Extension Office at 448-9041 in Clay County, or 812-829-5020 in Owen County, or reach me directly at smith535@purdue.edu.

Purdue University is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:

* Jan. 17 -- Extension Office closed,

* Jan. 25-26 -- Tenth Heart of America Grazing Conference, Louisville, Ky. Cost varies. Call 448-9041 for more information,

* Jan. 28 -- Indiana Livestock, Forage and Grain Forum, Indianapolis. Go to www.indianasoybean.com/forum, for more information,

* Jan. 29 -- Landscaping Program, 9 a.m.-noon, Clay County Extension Office. Register by Jan. 14 by calling 448-9041, and

* Feb. 1 -- Purdue Master Gardener Program begins, 6-9 p.m., Owen County Extension Office. Cost $75. Register by calling 812-829-5020.