The Sulfur Solution

Farmers and retailers who have been in the business for a while probably find themselves wondering why so much attention has been paid to sulfur the past several years.

After all, sulfur used to pretty much take care of itself, supplied to plants by organic matter and deposited by rainfall. Today, if you don’t keep a close eye on sulfur levels, it’s a question of not if, but when, yields will be affected.

That’s because over time, higher-yielding corn crops have depleted sulfur levels. (In fact, a 200-bushel-per-acre corn crop removes 16 pounds of sulfur from that acre.) And, since our air is cleaner today, we get less sulfur from rainfall than we used to. All this has translated into a need to more closely monitor and manage a nutrient that plays an integral role not only in plant development and yield, but also in grain quality.

Sulfur is important to plants because it’s an essential component of amino acids which convert into protein for the plant. It is also required for the production of chlorophyll and helps the plant produce energy for itself.

When it comes to treating sulfur deficiencies, there are several important considerations to keep in mind — including making sure that sulfur is available to the plant throughout the growing season.

It’s important to make sure sulfur is available to the crop throughout the growing season because when it’s taking those amino acids and turning them into protein, that’s what ultimately is going to become part of the grain. Sulfur plays a role in not only yield, but in the quality of grain as well.

But sulfate sulfur, the most common source that is available to the plant, is mobile in the soil. This means that with each rain, sulfur is moved downward in the soil profile and eventually is no longer available to the plant.

One way to make sure crops are getting adequate supplies of sulfur throughout the growing season is to use a premium granular fertilizer like MicroEssentials® SZ®. That product combines nitrogen (12 percent), phosphorus (40 percent), sulfur (10 percent) and zinc (1 percent) — fused into one balanced granule with an analysis of (12-40-0-10S-1Zn).

MicroEssentials® SZ® creates season-long sulfur availability for the crop because it contains elemental sulfur, which is oxidizing throughout the growing season and replenishing that supply of sulfate that has been diminished by rainfall. By supplementing sulfur through a similar process that happens in organic matter in the soil, growers get a continuous release of sulfate for their crop.

And a continuous supply of sulfur means better-quality grain, and more of it.

Curt Woolfolk is the Manager of Crop Nutrition Technologies for The Mosaic Company. He is responsible for leading the strategy around turning Mosaic research and knowledge into commercial tools and deliverables. This strategy results in bringing the latest technical information and product knowledge to create distinct value for Mosaic Performance Products. 

©2013 The Mosaic Company. All rights reserved. SZ is a trademark and MicroEssentials is a registered trademark of The Mosaic Company.

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