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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment » Agroecosystems Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #276561

Title: Don't overlook sulfur in crop management

item GRANT, CYNTHIA - Agriculture And Agri-Food Canada
item Kovar, John

Submitted to: Fluid Journal
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/18/2012
Publication Date: 2/7/2012
Citation: Grant, C.A., Kovar, J.L. 2012. Don't overlook sulfur in crop management. Fluid Journal. 20(2). Available:

Interpretive Summary: Sulfur (S) is an essential crop nutrient required for normal plant growth. Sulfur deficiency will reduce both crop yield and quality. Deficiencies and plant responses to S fertilizer have been reported in crops worldwide, and are becoming more common. The main reasons for recent increases in documented S deficiencies include the reduction of S dioxide emissions from various industrial sources, mainly coal-fired power plants, an increase in the use of fertilizers with little S as an impurity, decreased use of S-containing pesticides, greater S removals with ever-increasing crop yields, and continued losses with erosion of topsoil. The purpose of this review is to provide current information on the S requirements of various cropping systems and managing S fertilizers, and how all of this information can be put together to optimize crop production. This information will benefit commercial growers, the fertilizer industry, local environmental groups, and Cooperative Extension personnel interested in alternatives that maximize crop utilization and minimize potential S losses.

Technical Abstract: Sulfur (S) is a critical nutrient for crops, particularly canola, pulses and forage legumes, such as alfalfa. Sulfur deficiencies are increasing worldwide due to increased crop yields, declining soil organic matter, lower atmospheric deposition of S, and increased use of high-analysis fertilizers that contain little S. Management of S fertility offers much flexibility and various sources, timings and placements of S can be used effectively to provide the S needed by the crop. If a deficiency exists and a response is required in the growing season after application, a sulfate or thiosulfate source should be used to ensure that S deficiency does not limit crop growth. Elemental S sources may have a role in long-term rotational planning.