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.

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

MicronutrientsMicronutrients Going Macro
September 9, 2014
Between 2014’s fantastic growing conditions and a heightened awareness on plant nutrition, the major players in micronutrients are gearing up for another big year. Read More
MicronutrientsReport: Demand For Zinc As Micronutrient In Agriculture Grows
May 12, 2014
Zinc is becoming more important to increasing crop yields as global population and food consumption continue to rise. Read More
Sulfur Deficiency In Corn
Micronutrients3 Key Questions For Sulfur Application
February 3, 2014
Match sulfur supply to corn crop’s needs to maximize yields and fertilizer dollars. Read More
Micronutrients11 Tips For Effective Fall Application Of Gypsum
September 26, 2013
Spreading gypsum – which often occurs in late fall, after harvest – is simple if you follow these basic steps from GYPSOIL. Read More

Trending Articles

Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More
EquipmentNew Holland Acquires Miller-St. Nazianz
September 3, 2014
The assets of Miller acquired as part of the transaction will become part of New Holland Agriculture, a CNH Industrial brand, building on a successful four-year partnership between the two companies. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires East Kansas Chemical
September 2, 2014
Ranked 82nd on the CropLife 100, East Kansas Chemical will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More

Latest News

StewardshipProgram To Examine Ag-Related Practices, Policies To Pr…
September 22, 2014
A panel discussion on October 14 will include a significant discussion on key issues and solutions related to all aspects of harmful algal blooms. Read More
Eric SfiligojIt’s Product Of The Year Voting Season
September 22, 2014
Readers of CropLife IRON will choose 2014’s best new product over the next month. Read More
Palmer pigweed in soybean stubble
HerbicidesValent To Discontinue Gangster Herbicide
September 22, 2014
Valent will discontinue Gangster Herbicide after the 2015 growing season as growers can now deploy Fierce XLT herbicide in soybeans. Read More
Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
Equipment2014 Farm Science Review Crowd Tops 2013 Show
September 19, 2014
The 52nd annual Ohio State University Farm Science Review welcomed more than 130,000 farmers, industry professionals, FFA students and agricultural enthusiasts during the three-day event. Read More
Seed/BiotechUSDA Approves Enlist Following Rigorous Review
September 18, 2014
Dow AgroSciences now awaits EPA registration of Enlist Duo herbicide, the companion herbicide to the Enlist traits, which is expected in the near future. Read More
BlendersYargus Appoints New Plant Manager
September 18, 2014
Steve Shaffer will direct and coordinate daily operations at the company’s Marshall, IL, manufacturing plant, where the Layco line of material handling equipment is produced. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires Kansas-Based Cedar Ridge Supply
September 16, 2014
Cedar Ridge Supply will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
StewardshipSecretary Vilsack Highlights Innovative Conservation Ef…
September 15, 2014
Nearly $16 million in Conservation Innovation Grants (CIGs) will be awarded to 47 organizations to help develop cutting-edge ideas to accelerate innovation in private lands conservation. Read More
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Responds To Cargill Lawsuit
September 15, 2014
Syngenta believes that the lawsuit is without merit and strongly upholds the right of growers to have access to approved new technologies. Read More
Equipment2014 Farm Science Review Launches Mobile App
September 15, 2014
Smartphone and tablet users planning on attending the 2014 Farm Science Review can now download this year’s customized mobile application. Read More
CropLife 100Southern States Coop Grower Sets Georgia Soybean Yield …
September 15, 2014
Georgia farmer Randy Dowdy's soybeans yielded an astonishing 110.66 bushels per acre, crushing the previous record of 82 bushels-per-acre. Read More
NIMITZ Treated vs Untreated pepper plant
InsecticidesNIMITZ Nematicide Approved By EPA
September 12, 2014
NIMITZ is a novel, non-fumigant nematicide with simplified application features, user safety and an active ingredient with a unique mode of action. Read More
InsecticidesMarrone Bio Innovations Receives Patent For Chromobacte…
September 11, 2014
The patent is the first step for MBI in developing a commercially viable product to inhibit infestations of corn rootworm larvae across America and other regions. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences: Keeping The Pipeline Stocked
September 11, 2014
Dow AgroSciences is embracing product diversity to drive the company’s future. Read More
CropLife 100CHS Is Official Partner Of New St. Paul Ballpark
September 10, 2014
The new ballpark in St. Paul, MN, officially became CHS Field with Twin Cities-based CHS Inc. revealed as the naming rights partner. Read More
EquipmentHagie Honors Farming Stewardship Leaders
September 10, 2014
The Iowa Farm Environmental Leader award recognizes Iowa farmers as environmental leaders that are committed to healthy soils and improved water quality. Read More
Precision AgPlantBeat: Your Plants’ Pulse In The Palm Of Your Han…
September 10, 2014
A new agronomic monitoring and recommendation service from Phytech could rewrite the book on real-time plant health status monitoring. Read More