Help solve Sulfur Deficiency in Southern Indiana!

What is sulfur Deficiency?

Sulfur deficiency occurs when a plant is not capable or does not have the resources to take in sulfur. The main reason corn can experience sulfur deficiency is the absence of sulfur in the soil. Farmers can realize there is a problem with their crop; however, sulfur deficiency is similar to nitrogen deficiency. If a farmer applies nitrogen fertilizer to their crop, then the sulfur deficiency continues and the plant can die from too much nitrogen in the soil.

WHAT causes it?

There are many factors which influence sulfur deficiency, such as increased crop yields; greater usage of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium; and decreased sulfur dioxide emission. Increased crop yields means more sulfur is being utilized by the crop. Once the crop is harvested and removed, the soil has no way of regaining the sulfur. Previously, when consumers used N, P, and K, the source contained levels of sulfur. Today, consumers are using higher levels of N, P, and K; where there are little to no sulfur levels. Factories used to emit sulfur dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. However, more environmentally safe fuel is being utilized, therefore there are less emissions; causing a reduction of sulfur in the soil.

How Does it Affect Corn?

While lab analyses are the most accurate when determining sulfur deficiency, a common symptom is yellow striping intermixed in the characteristic green in the leaves of corn. Other mineral deficiencies are similar to sulfur, such as zinc and magnesium. Corn, specifically, requires sulfur to grow. Without it, corn cannot utilize nitrogen in the surrounding soil and will die.

Misdiagnosing Sulfur Deficiency

 Since a sulfur deficiency has the same visual effect on the leaves of corn as a nitrogen deficiency, a consumers will apply more nitrogen to the plant, thinking that this would solve the nitrogen deficiency that their plants seem to have. As farmers continue to add more nitrogen to the plant, nitrogen reserves will accumulate in the soil. This could possibly be a factor to the rising problem of dead zones found in the Gulf of Mexico because the additional nitrogen could wash away with runoff. A dead zone occurs when a body of water acquires too many minerals and nutrients, like nitrogen. The high levels of nutrients cause bacteria to grow out of control, which leads to harmful effects. By testing an agricultural field for the mineral levels, a consumer can know the correct fertilizer to apply to their crop, which may help to prevent the cause of dead zones.