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Addressing sulfur deficiency in Canada

Canola growers know how important sulfur is, and how challenging it can be to get enough sulfur for high-yielding, high-value crops.

“Sulfur is the fourth [major] nutrient. We have the Clean Air Act to thank for reducing pollution but also reducing or removing any atmospheric sulfur we used to be able to count on. Growers today must carefully consider a number of things when deciding to apply sulfur,” says Lyle Cowell, Senior Agronomist, Nutrien Canada.

It’s important to know the impacts of the crops you are growing. Canola removes twice as much sulfur from the soil than any other crop. Shorter rotations mean more sulfur is being removed and the other crops in the rotation, such as wheat and barley, are also taking their share of available sulfur.

“For example, when corn and soybean are grown in rotation, both removing a lot of sulfur, there are a number of factors at play. We must pay careful attention to the sustainability of sulfur for our crops,” says Cowell.

Correcting sulfur deficiencies in the soil can take a few forms. Ammonium sulfate is readily available in the soil, can be applied before or soon after seeding and it can correct deficiencies on the spot. Elemental sulfur, such as Smart Nutrition MAP+MST, is created to slowly release nutrients throughout the season, feeding the crop when it needs it.

As the atmospheric sulfur inventory in the soil is depleted, growers should consider ways to replace this critical fourth nutrient. “Understanding that the sulfur you apply this year could also be feeding your crop next year, and that the sulfur needs of each crop differ significantly, requires a long-term plan,” says Cowell.

Find a Nutrien representative in your region.

More resources on sulfur deficiencies:

Understanding the Sulfur Cycle

Smart Crop Nutrition with Dr. Cristie Preston

Sulfur Isn’t Just for Canola

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