3 Key Questions For Sulfur Application

Sulfur Deficiency In Corn
Sulfur deficiency in corn tends to give the leaves a “streaky” or “spotty” appearance.

It’s no secret that more and more corn growers are utilizing — and reaping the benefits from — a balanced approach to crop nutrition. In fact, while planning next year’s fertilizer program for your customers, it’s not only imperative to help them get the most out of their fertilizer dollar, it’s also crucial to help today’s corn growers have on hand all the required nutrients available to the corn crop at the right time. Sulfur (S) is an important nutrient to remember to include in a balanced fertility plan.

To ensure investment in S produces more bushels of corn, three key questions must be addressed:

  • How much S does corn need and when does it need it?
  • What form does S need to be in to be available for uptake by the corn crop?
  • How can S be supplied in the right form at the right time?

How much S does corn need and when does it need it?

Sulfur is an essential nutrient for corn growth, and a critical nutrient to make required proteins. Total uptake of S in a corn crop ranges from 0.1 to 0.12 pound S per bushel of corn produced. While this pales in comparison to the total nitrogen (N) required by a corn crop, that same crop cannot maximize its yield potential unless S is available at the right time in non-limiting concentrations.

When is the right time? S uptake occurs over the entire growing season, with relatively constant uptake from the 14-leaf stage to maturity. Unlike nitrogen, in which 70% to 75% of the total N is taken up by flowering, only 40% to 50% of the total S is taken up by flowering (see chart below). Furthermore, S is also immobile within the plant, which means the plant is unable to compensate for low levels of S that may occur late in the season by moving S from older growth to new growth. Therefore, if a steady supply of S is unavailable over the entire season, late-season S deficiencies can significantly impact yield, since S already in the plant cannot be moved for use in the growth of new leaves and grain.

Sulfur Uptake Chart
Research has shown that the timing of S uptake by corn is very consistent, even when different varieties and locations are considered. (click to enlarge)

What form does sulfur need to be in to be available for uptake by the corn crop?

In order for S to be available for the corn crop to use, it must be in the form of sulfate (SO4). There are two common forms of S available in fertilizers today: One is in the available form of SO4, and the other is in elemental form. Elemental sulfur (ES) must be broken down by microbes in the soil (oxidized) into SO4 before it is available for uptake by plants. The amount of SO4 released from ES depends on the physical size of the ES; larger pieces take longer to break down than smaller pieces. (Think how much quicker ice cubes melt than a large block of ice; the smaller the particle sizes, the quicker the ES releases.) The environmental conditions also affect how quickly ES converts into SO4. Since microbes dominate the process, warm, moist soils with good aeration result in more ES being released. The oxidation of ES into SO4 means that S is slowly available over time from ES sources.

How can S be supplied in the right form at the right time?

If S must be in SO4 form, why not just put down S in its available form of SO4? Similar to N, S in its available form is subject to losses. Just as we focus on ways of controlling losses of N from the system, S needs to be protected as well. Putting down all of a crop’s S requirements in the available form at one time does not ensure that there is a steady supply all season long. Using a fertilizer that supplies S in both its readily available SO4 form and in a slowly available ES form (such as Mosaic’s MicroEssentials) means that as soon as the fertilizer is put down, there is S available for the crop; and as the growing season progresses, then the ES will be released, ensuring a season-long supply of S that matches crop demand.

As growers continue to expect more yield from high-producing hybrids, it will be necessary to help them fine-tune their crop nutrition plans. As with other nutrients, application, timing and rate of S will be an important piece of the corn yield puzzle.

Leave a Reply

Micronutrients Stories

Young Corn Closeup
MicronutrientsBiostimulants And Micronutrients: The Making Of A Market
September 7, 2016
The market for biostimulants and micronutrients continues to grow faster than many other areas of the crop protection market. While Read More
Aerial Photo of Advanced Micronutrient Products in Reese MI
MicronutrientsAdvanced Micronutrient Products Big On Custom Blends
September 7, 2016
John Bowen, whose father started Cameron Chemicals in 1986, has his own unique approach to today’s market. The company evolved Read More
corn
MicronutrientsMicronutrients 2016: Market Updates From Key Suppliers
September 7, 2016
This is the year that people should be going back to using micronutrients. After all, to open the door, you Read More
Aspire with Boron
Crop InputsStudy: Aspire with Boron Ups Alfalfa Yields
June 8, 2016
Alfalfa growers are successfully improving yields through the cutting season by applying an important micronutrient. In a recent study, The Read More
Trending Articles
R4023 Sprayer, John Deere
CropLife 100Ag Retail Equipment Report: The Green Party Continues
December 7, 2016
In the annual race for sales in the ag retail equipment marketplace, the color schemes for participants are a little Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls And Bears Impacting This Year’s Marketplace
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMissouri Governor Meets With Bayer CEO To Discuss Monsanto Merger
November 21, 2016
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited Bayer AG global headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, on November 18 to discuss the proposed Bayer-Monsanto Read More
STS16 2017
SprayersHagie Manufacturing Releases 2017 STS16 Sprayer To Market
November 16, 2016
Hagie Manufacturing LLC’s largest full season applicator is now available with enhancements for the 2017 model year. Hagie is officially Read More
Latest News
ManagementARA 2016 Report and Crop Mix for 2017
December 9, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the recent Agricultural Retailers Association meeting and the projected acreage mix for Read More
AgriSync
Matt Hopkins17 Agriculture Apps That Will Help You Farm Smarter In …
December 9, 2016
Ag professionals are working smarter, not harder, than ever before. Smart farming technologies have enabled them to reduce costs, maximize Read More
Ryan Bartlett
Crop InputsCompass Minerals Appoints Vice President, Innovation An…
December 8, 2016
Ryan Bartlett, Ph.D., has joined Compass Minerals as vice president, innovation and product development. Dr. Bartlett will be responsible for Read More
HerbicidesHerbicides 2017: New Cropping Systems Set For Debut
December 7, 2016
Herbicide-resistant weed are inching ever-closer to a potentially frightening saturation point here in the U.S. Heading into 2016, USDA planting Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires Michigan Ag Retailer
December 7, 2016
Wilbur-Ellis’ Agribusiness, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed and nutritional Read More
Fertilizer storage The Andersons
CropLife 1002016 Fertilizer Report: Another Really Rough Year For A…
December 7, 2016
In many ways, the fertilizer category cannot seem to catch a break. During the early part of the 2010s decade, Read More
R4023 Sprayer, John Deere
CropLife 100Ag Retail Equipment Report: The Green Party Continues
December 7, 2016
In the annual race for sales in the ag retail equipment marketplace, the color schemes for participants are a little Read More
Winter wheat
HerbicidesTalinor Herbicide Approved For Wheat And Barley
December 7, 2016
Talinor herbicide from Syngenta has received federal registration from the U.S. EPA, giving wheat and barley growers a new option Read More
Forage Sorghum
UncategorizedMilestone Achievement Continues For Dow AgroSciences, A…
December 7, 2016
New and innovative forage products are on the horizon driven by continued collaboration between Dow AgroSciences, a wholly owned subsidiary Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
HerbicidesNew WSSA Factsheet Explores Weed Seeds And Their Longev…
December 7, 2016
Did you know some weed seeds can lie dormant in the soil for more than a century and then sprout Read More
Crop InputsARA 2016: 5 Developments Worth Monitoring Into 2017
December 6, 2016
You can pretty much set your watch to it (do people even still wear watches? I know I do…but I’m Read More
Tim McCardle, ARA Chairman
CropLife 100BRANDT COO Named ARA Chairman
December 5, 2016
BRANDT EVP and Chief Operating Officer Tim McArdle has been named chairman of the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) during a Read More
Crop InputsWilbur-Ellis Receives ResponsibleAg Certification At Mo…
December 5, 2016
Wilbur-Ellis Co., a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution of crop protection products, announces the ResponsibleAg certification Read More
Young Corn Closeup
Eric SfiligojThe Read On 2017 For Agricultural Fortunes Is Anybody’s…
December 5, 2016
As I (and others) have written in recent months, the nation has just experienced one of the most offbeat election Read More
Acceleron B-300 seed coating
Crop InputsThe BioAg Alliance Launches New Yield-Boosting Microbia…
December 5, 2016
As part of their commitment to develop and commercialize innovative microbial solutions for farmers through The BioAg Alliance, Monsanto Co. Read More
ManagementCorn and soy planting update; Takeaways from Climate Co…
December 2, 2016
AgriBusiness Global Editor Dave Frabotta Joins Paul Schrimpf for a discussion of global corn and soybean planting trends, and a Read More
Radish cover crop taproot
Crop InputsSoil Health Institute, Datu Research Receive Grant To E…
December 1, 2016
The Soil Health Institute (SHI) and Datu Research have announced a $626,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation to quantify the Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More