I remember when I first started out at a retail farm center in the mid-seventies that agriculture was changing rapidly. Soybeans were a new row crop that we knew little about except that we planted them in 38” or 40” rows, put a couple of hundred pounds of a low nitrogen blend of fertilizer in the row, and cultivated them because we didn’t have good herbicides.
At that time, I was working in a large forage area with a lot of beef and dairy animals. The majority of corn that was grown never saw an elevator but was fed to the cattle and hogs either as a ground feed mix from the local mills or as silage in the dairies. 100 bushel to the acre was the magic number for corn yield, and 40 bushel to the acre was the number that we were reaching for wheat and soybeans.
I recently looked back at some soil tests that I still have from the seventies that came from our old Agrico soil laboratory in Washington Court House, Ohio. The seventy or so soil tests I have from that time showed no deficiencies of sulfur. As a matter of fact, all were sufficient or high. The universities did not even test for sulfur and for good reason………we were getting plenty from our power plants before the scrubbers were installed to clean up sulfur emissions, and from our cars, trucks, and tractors before we had catalytic converters and low sulfur fuels. Then we started to hear about acid rain which was killing our forests and polluting our atmosphere.
Fast forward 40 years and we are not getting free sulfur any longer. During my last five years at a retail farm center, 97% of soil tests have come back low or deficient in sulfur. This rate probably would have been even higher but some of my soil tests included burley tobacco in which the majority was required to use sulfate of potash. Our rates of applied nitrogen are doubled now compared to the seventies, and when you use a 16-20 to 1 ratio of N to S, that means the removal of sulfur is a lot greater than in the seventies.
So where do we get sulfur if it is not being supplied to us as it was then? Is sulfur (which is removed as pounds per acre), crucial to the production of today’s crop?
Sulfur is very essential to today’s agriculture and there are many in the agricultural community believe it should be the “fourth major nutrient,” behind nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash, and I do not disagree. Protein production will suffer, especially in our needed protein crops without sulfur. Nitrogen will not be as efficient in the plant without sulfur. Chlorophyll production will not occur as it should in the plant without sulfur, and a lot of our soil microorganisms cannot function in the soil to promote the feeding of the plant without sulfur.
SUL4R-PLUS® products are a good and efficient way to provide the sulfur that is needed in agriculture today. SUL4R-PLUS products are in the sulfate form that the plant requires, and because the calcium nutrient is also contained in the granule, it is slowly released when the plant needs it.
Is all sulfur the same? I will be quick to tell you that elemental sulfur will probably not get released to the plant in the same year it was applied. Other sulfates, such as AMS, are so apt to leach that they could be gone in as short as 5-10 days (Texas A&M study – Dr. Mowrey).
Harry S. Truman once said, “The only thing new in this world is the history we haven’t read.” History shows us that we once got all the sulfur we needed. Now we know our sources of sulfur are no longer available and we have to supply it! We must recognize the need for a good source of sulfur for our crops if we are to be efficient and productive. SUL4R-PLUS products are what I, the Crop Doctor, prescribe.