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
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manufacturer Kay-Flo
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
CropLife 100North Central Farmers Elevator, Wheat Growers Unification Approved By Board, Still Awaits Member Approval
May 13, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have voted to approve the Unification Read More
CropLife 100AgGateway’s Barcoding Initiative Progressing Nicely
May 8, 2015
According to legend (or Wikipedia), the first step towards modern bar codes came back in 1948, when Bernard Silver, a Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Acquires Missouri Refined Fuels Terminal
April 2, 2015
Bloomington, IL-based GROWMARK and Magellan Pipeline Co. have entered into an agreement in which GROWMARK will acquire the refined fuels Read More
Latest News
Bayer CropScience, ILeVO
Crop InputsISU: ‘Halo Effect’ From ILeVO Soybean Seed …
May 28, 2015
Farmers who were lucky enough to plant soybeans and spray pre-emergence herbicides in between rain events may now be seeing Read More
ManagementCorn Planting/Monsanto-Syngenta Update; New PrecisionAg…
May 28, 2015
Eric Sfiligoj and Paul Schrimpf give updates on corn planting progress, the latest on Monsanto-Syngenta rumors and preview a brand Read More
Waterhemp in soybean stubble
HerbicidesEPA Signs Off On Monsanto’s Warrant Ultra Premix
May 27, 2015
Soybean and cotton growers looking for new tools to manage weeds will have a new, first-of-its-kind option in 2016 with Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
HerbicidesSTUDY: Weed Diversity Primarily Influenced By Geography
May 27, 2015
The potential long-term impacts of glyphosate-resistant crops on biodiversity of the agricultural landscape have been the subject of controversy. A Read More
Seed/BiotechAgrilead Forms Distribution Alliance With Kansas-Based …
May 27, 2015
Agrilead, Inc. announces the formation of a strategic alliance with KALO, Inc. of Overland Park, KS. Through the alliance, KALO Read More
EquipmentPrecision Tank Announces A&B Welding Acquisition
May 27, 2015
Precision Tank, a specialized tank and equipment manufacturer, announced today the acquisition of A&B Welding of Thompson, IA, a manufacturer Read More
Allied Cooperative Grain Plant
ManagementTraining Program Gives First Responders Skills For Grai…
May 27, 2015
When stored grain forms hard bridges, columns and other irregularities, those working to correct it find themselves at risk of Read More
Industry NewsBASF Sponsors Space Farming Research Project
May 26, 2015
Is it possible to produce large quantities of high quality vegetables on a space station, about 320 kilometers away from Read More
FertilizerTexas Ammonium Nitrate Bill Passes Senate, Heads To Gov…
May 26, 2015
The Texas State Senate gave final approval last Thursday to new regulations for ammonium nitrate, reports The Dallas Morning News Read More
Young corn plants
Industry NewsArysta Europe Details New Organizational Structure
May 26, 2015
Arysta LifeScience Europe recently announced a new organizational structure to leverage its scale and accelerate the company’s growth in this Read More
Syngenta Sign
Eric SfiligojMonsanto-Syngenta Could Hinge On A Judgment Of Solomon …
May 26, 2015
In the bible, the reputation of King Solomon’s wisdom in matters of despite comes from a tale of one child Read More
ManagementA New Sprayer Company & UAV Research In The Spotlig…
May 21, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about a Dutch sprayer manufacturer entering the U.S. with a super-sized entry and Read More
HerbicidesFirst U.S. Sale Of Enlist Duo Herbicide Made By Dow Agr…
May 21, 2015
Dow AgroSciences has recorded the first U.S. sale of Enlist Duo herbicide with Colex-D Technology. This marks the first commercial Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manu…
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
EquipmentNORAC Options Coming To TerraGator
May 19, 2015
Utilizing NORAC’s Standard Control technology, boom height control is now available for TerraGators with Airmax Precision 2 and Benson Booms. This Read More
Crop InputsHelena Introduces New Soil Health Product
May 19, 2015
Helena Chemical Co. is helping agricultural producers maximize yields and efficiency with the introduction of Liquid Chisel, a new product Read More
Stewardship4R Nutrient Management Planning Certification Now Avail…
May 19, 2015
The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) and the International Certified Crop Adviser (ICCA) program announce a new specialty certification in Read More
Environmental Defense Fund logo
Paul SchrimpfEnvironmental Defense Fund: Appreciating Partners
May 19, 2015
I WAS deep in the throes of preparation for the Commodity Classic meeting that took place this past February, trying Read More