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

CropLife 100Agrium To Cut 500 Jobs, Sell Some Businesses
November 11, 2014
Among the businesses Agrium will try to sell are its micronutrients and European UAN (urea-ammonium nitrate) lines. Read More
HerbicidesMonsanto, Sumitomo Chemical And Valent Extend Crop Protection Collaboration
November 10, 2014
The agreement extends their strategic partnership in Monsanto’s Roundup Ready PLUS Crop Management Solutions platform for soybeans and cotton in the U.S. Read More
FertilizerCorn Rootworm Hybrids And Potassium Uptake
November 4, 2014
To achieve successful yields, grower-customers can’t afford to cut back on their potassium use with corn rootworm hybrids, say experts. Read More
StewardshipResponsibleAg Begins Auditor Training
October 31, 2014
ResponsibleAg auditor training is now underway at the Ford B. West Center for Responsible Agriculture in Owensboro, KY. Read More
InsecticidesNew Research Study Shows The Value Of Neonics
October 29, 2014
The study evaluated seed treatment, soil and foliar uses of neonicotinoid insecticides in the U.S. and Canada. Read More
Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScience
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More

Latest News

EquipmentAGCO Announces Operator Of The Year Finalists
November 20, 2014
Four custom applicators have been selected by AGCO Application Equipment as finalists for 2014 Operator of the Year, an honor that recognizes them as being among the top professionals in their industry throughout North America. Read More
MicronutrientsH.J. Baker Expands Tiger-Sul Business
November 20, 2014
H.J. Baker has created and filled two strategic positions in business development and sales within its Crop Performance Division. Read More
soybean field
FertilizerGeneral Mills Honors United Suppliers For Nitrogen Opti…
November 19, 2014
United Suppliers winning proposal detailed SUSTAIN, a consulting network that provides customized products and services for farmers using a needs-based system approach. Read More
EmployeesOhio AgriBusiness Association Awards $25,000 In Scholar…
November 19, 2014
Each year, the Ohio AgriBusiness Association Educational Trust scholarship program awards scholarship dollars to students enrolled in an agriculture-related field attending several state colleges. Read More
ManagementServi-Tech Names New CEO
November 17, 2014
Servi-Tech has named Greg Ruehle its new president and CEO. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Ag Acquires Colorado Aerial Application Outlet
November 17, 2014
Ft. Lupton, CO-based Reck Aviation — a full-service chemical application company providing aerial crop applications of fertilizers and crop protection products — will operate as part of Pinnacle's AgOne Application Services brand. Read More
Eric SfiligojMcDonald’s Message: Biotech Crops Scarier Than Cancer
November 17, 2014
Despite their potential health benefits, one of the world’s largest potato users will pass on a new biotech offering. Read More
MicronutrientsWinField Releases 2014 NutriSolutions Results
November 14, 2014
A number of significant regional and national crop deficiency trends emerged from the 2014 WinField NutriSolutions tissue sampling program. Read More
FertilizerH.J. Baker Opens Chinese Production Lines
November 14, 2014
The occasion was the official launch of the Tiger-Sul sulphur Bentonite production line of two much anticipated fertilizer products in China, T90CR sulphur fertilizer and TZinc micronutrient enhanced sulphur fertilizer. Read More
ManagementOhio Certified Crop Adviser Program Accepting Nominatio…
November 14, 2014
The award recognizes an individual who delivers exceptional customer service for farmer clients in nutrient management, soil and water management, integrated pest management and crop production in Ohio. Read More
HerbicidesSyngenta Announces Acuron Trial Plot Results
November 14, 2014
Acuron was tested at 167 trial locations across 35 states. Trials included 95 Syngenta locations, 54 university locations and 18 distributor locations. Read More
Crop InputsVerdesian Expands Sales Force
November 13, 2014
The new sales representatives will work with growers, retail partners and distributors to oversee technical training and product education. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Raises $100K For Wounded Warrior Project
November 13, 2014
AGCO Corp. partnered with local AGCO dealers across the U.S. and Canada to raise nearly $100,000 in support of wounded service veterans. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Announces Launch Of Enlist Duo Herbici…
November 12, 2014
It will be launched in conjunction with a stewarded introduction of Enlist corn, and seed production of Enlist soybeans in 2015. Read More
FertilizerH.J. Baker Expands Tiger-Sul Business
November 12, 2014
Agricultural firm H.J. Baker has created and filled two strategic positions in business development and sales within its Crop Performance Division. Read More
Blenders13 Fertilizer Blenders For 2015
November 12, 2014
Dealers can find a fertilizer blender to deliver any speed, volume and custom mix they want. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Vice President Receives Honorary FFA Award
November 11, 2014
Jim Loar, vice president of operations of Wilbur-Ellis’ Agribusiness Division, was awarded the Honorary American FFA Degree at the 2014 National FFA Convention and Expo in Louisville, KY. Read More
FertilizerBASF Makes Limus Nitrogen Management Available In U.S.
November 11, 2014
Reducing ammonia losses by more than 90%, Limus nitrogen management has demonstrated increased crop yields on average of 6%, according to 2013 replicated research. Read More