Sulfur Fertilization Research Saves Money

Clarke McGrath, Crops Field Specialist, Southwest
Problem Statement:

Sulfur is an essential crop nutrient that is often marketed as a component of fertility programs by fertilizer dealers to clients in the hope that it will increase yields.  ISU data, as well as data from other midwest Land Grant Universities, shows little, if any benefit to the addition of S to a fertilizer program.  While the midwest data is useful, growers and dealers both request more "localized" data to base decisions on.  With an average cost of over $4 per acre for S fertilization, dealers and growers need unbiased, research based information they feel comfortable with in order to decide whether or not to apply S fertilizer to their crops.
Programmatic Response:

Over the last 5 growing seasons, with the cooperation of several local ag chem dealers, growers and seed companies, I have had a total of 21 plots evaluating corn/bean response to S fertilization.  Plots have been in a corn/bean rotation, under various tillage systems, including no-till.  Results of the research have been shared with clients in southwest Iowa through meetings, publications and email updates.

Although extractable S levels in the 0-6" depth at over 1/2 the sites were lower than the reported 10ppm critical level (Hoeft, et al.), there have been no economic responses to the S applications in yields for corn or soybeans.  This is consistent with findings from earlier ISU research by state fertility specialists such as Drs. Killorn, Mallarino and Sawyer.  In an evaluation of this information, several ag chem dealers and growers were asked to share if, and how, they have used this research work to adjust their S fertilizer applications.  Results were compiled and indicated that approximately 9500 acres of crop land that had received regular S applications previously to this research work being shared were no longer having S applications made to them.  While this is a small sampling of area clients, for these growers the savings have been over $40,000.  This work will continue with various S sources and application methods.

February 3, 2006
103 - Nutrient Management

Page last updated: July 8, 2006
Page maintained by Linda Schultz,