Need for sulfur right behind N, P and K

Published online: Dec 03, 2012
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DuPont Pioneer provided a "Crops Insight" about how crops need sulfur. What agronomists and researchers have discovered is easily understood without reading the lengthy article although a link to the entire article is provided at the bottom of the following highlight.


Sulfur is one of the 16 elements essential to crop production. It is typically considered a secondary macronutrient (along with calcium and magnesium), but is essential for maximum crop yield and quality. Sulfur is often ranked immediately behind nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in terms of importance to crop productivity.


Sulfur is a component of the amino acids cysteine and methionine making it essential for protein synthesis in plants. Plants contain a large variety of other organic sulfur compounds, such as glutathione, sulfolipids and secondary sulfur compounds which play an important role in physiology and protection against environmental stress and pests.


Sulfur fertility has historically not been a major concern for growers on most soils, as soil organic matter, atmospheric deposition, manure application and incidental sulfur contained in fertilizers have typically supplied sufficient sulfur for crop production. However, reductions in the amount of sulfur contributed by these factors combined with increased sulfur removal with greater crop yields have made sulfur deficiencies more common.



·         Sulfur is an essential nutrient for crop production, often ranked behind only nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in importance.

·         Increased removal due to higher crop yields combined with reduced inputs from atmospheric deposition and other sources have increased the prevalence of sulfur deficiencies.

·         Sandy and low organic matter soils are at greatest risk for sulfur deficiency.

·         Sulfur is taken up by plants as sulfate, an anion that is mobile in the soil and subject to loss through leaching or volatilization, much like nitrate

·         Alfalfa and canola have high sulfur requirements and are more likely to respond to sulfur fertilizer, particularly on sandy soils.

·         Corn and soybean often do not respond to sulfur fertilizer, but yield responses can be substantial in cases where sulfur is deficient.


To read the full article written by Mark Jeschke and Keith Diedrick about the need for sulfur and application to various crops, click here.