In addition to phosphorus (P), nitrogen (N), and potassium (K), sulfur (S) is an essential nutrient for crops to produce more yields and nutritious foods.
What Is Sulfur?
A pale yellow, odorless, and brittle solid, sulfur is water-insoluble but soluble in carbon disulfide. It is essential to all living things, including humans, animals, and plants. For humans and animals, they get it only from plants. An average human takes in about 1 gram per day, primarily in proteins.
It is taken up as sulfate from the soil or seawater for plants or algae and is considered an essential nutrient in crop production. It is utilized to make among the two most important amino acids needed to make proteins. It is classified as a secondary element together with magnesium and calcium but is sometimes referred to as “the 4th major nutrient.” On top of these, sulfur is used to make sulfur fertilizers.
Key Functions of Sulfur to Plants
1. Protein production. Sulfur is a component of three sulfur-containing amino acids: cysteine, cysteine, and methionine, which are protein’s building blocks.
2. Oil synthesis. For oilseeds, ample sulfur is essential.
3. Formation of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a key component in photosynthesis, a process that green plants undergo to produce their own food.
4. Activation of enzymes. Enzymes are important for breaking fats, protein, and carbohydrates into smaller molecules that the cells can use to get energy and undergo processes that allow plants to survive. Without enzymes, these physiological processes would not be possible, even for animals.
5. Helps with plants’ special metabolism. Sulfur is also associated with the structural characteristics of protoplasm.
6. Increases crop yields and improves the quality of produce. These two factors determine the market price of a farmer’s produce.
7. Sulfur helps plants to resist diseases and aids in growth and seed formation.
Sulfur Deficiency in Plants
Sulfur deficiency in plants affects protein synthesis, chlorophyll production, and plant function and structure. In other words, it impacts the overall development and maturity of plants. Thus, affecting a farmer’s yields. Fortunately, it is not common in irrigated rice. Instead, it usually occurs in allophane-containing soils, soils with low organic matter status, sandy soils, and highly-weathered soils that contain large amounts of iron oxides. Moreover, frequent rainfall also affects the amount of available sulfur by moving it further down into the soils, making it inaccessible for many plants to absorb.
To identify a sulfur deficiency in your plants, look for the following symptoms:
- Lower leaves don’t show necrosis
- Yellow or pale green color of the entire plant
- Leaves are player yellow
- Young leaves are light green (chlorotic), with the tips becoming necrotic
How to Correct Sulfur Deficiency
There are many products available nowadays to correct a sulfur deficiency. The one you will use will depend on the soil conditions of your field and if there are other deficiencies present. Here are some of these products:
- Elemental Sulfur
- Ammonium sulfate
- Ammonium thiosulfate
- Effects of fertilizers containing sulfur on soil pH
Importance of Bentonite Clay to Sulfur Fertilizers
You probably wonder about the role of bentonite clay in sulfur fertilizers. This natural and unmodified clay acts as an effective conditioner to improve soil structure and boost water and fertilizer use. Bentonite clay is safe for plants, aquatic systems, animals, and microorganisms.
Here are its benefits:
- Maximizes water and fertilizer retention in sandy soils.
- Enhances water absorption on water repellent or non-wetting soils.
- Supplies soluble plant nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
- Improves the soil quality for lawns, vegetable gardens, pot plants, and native gardens.
To read more about bentonite clay and sulfur fertilizers, visit Keg River, one of the premier producers of sulfur fertilizers in North America.