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Deficiency ID: do your crops need sulphur?

Deficiency ID: do your crops need sulphur?

Plants lacking this nutrient may show a variety of symptoms

By Kaitlynn Anderson
Staff Writer

When crop scouting, farmers may want to watch for a nutrient deficiency that is becoming more common in Ontario.

As the amount of sulphate in the province’s soils has decreased over time, growers are reporting more incidents of sulphur deficiency.

In fact, southern Ontario experienced a drop in annual sulphur deposition from nearly 40 pounds per acre in 1990 to approximately five pounds per acre in 2015, Thursday’s field crop report said.

Multiple symptoms indicate this deficiency.

Generally, in wheat, plants that lack this nutrient will have a yellowish colour. The symptoms usually start to appear on the younger leaves but will spread throughout entire plants as the deficiency progresses, the report said.

These symptoms are similar to the signs of nitrogen deficiency, a Perdue agronomy article stated. So, to avoid misdiagnosing their crops, growers may want to submit tissue samples to a lab for testing.

In corn, producers may find this deficiency shows itself both through yellowing of the leaves and in the form of chlorosis between dark veins.

Alfalfa, which requires more sulphur than any other field crop, will have a spindly structure when it lacks this nutrient, the crop report said. The stands may also appear light green or yellowish in colour.

Farmers are most likely to witness this deficiency on light-textured soils that have low levels of organic matter, the report said. Fields with coarse subsoils where sulphate easily leaches may also be at risk.

However, producers have reported sulphur deficiency on heavier soils as well.

For more information on this deficiency, check out the Field Guide. has reached out to an agronomist for further comment.


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