Sulfur is an important factor in terms of corn yield and grain quality. When sulfur is low, AgriGold agronomists Kevin Gale and Joe Stephan recommend turning to management practices to maximize the end product.
Gale and Stephan say farmers have been reporting sulfur deficiencies in 2021, primarily in no-till or heavy residue situations.
Related: Sulfur: The key to crop nutrition
Sulfur deficiency occurs because of slow mineralization, especially during the cool, wet weather of May, says Gale, who covers northern Illinois. Soil type matters, too.
“The lighter the soil, the less mineralization, or lower organic matter,” he says. “The higher organic matter soils typically release more sulfur as temperatures warm up and roots expand.”
Tissue sample tests are another way to realize the need for sulfur application. Stephan, who covers northern Indiana, shares what to look for in the results. If you just read the nitrogen and sulfur levels from a test, both may say they are adequate, he says. But if the ratio of nitrogen to sulfur is out of balance, then there is still a deficiency problem.
Sulfur interacts with nitrogen and affects yield and grain quality.
“Nitrogen and sulfur typically work hand in hand,” Gale says. “Sulfur helps nitrogen get into the plant and be more efficient with the plant.”
This means farmers can apply the two nutrients simultaneously.
“From an agronomic standpoint, we talk about applying sulfur when you are putting nitrogen out,” Gale says. “Whether it be on the planter, a two-by-two situation or sidedressing, putting sulfur in that program is typically beneficial.”
Stephan agrees that the key at this point in the season is that growers can apply sulfur later with sidedressing or consider sulfur application for next year.
Agronomists recommend applying 10 to 20 pounds of sulfur annually to grow a good corn crop.
“We have seen benefits from growers implementing sulfur when front-loading corn or sidedressing especially under the stressful conditions of this year,” Stephan says.
Want a successful crop? Recognize and take action on sulfur deficiency.
“It is all about building a factory,” Gale says. “Plants that have a quick start with good roots and good nutrient availability early is important for maximizing yields and grain quality.”