Along with phosphorus (P), nitrogen (N), and potassium (K), sulfur (S) is a vital nutrient for crops to produce more yields and nutritious foods. 

What Is Sulfur?

A pale yellow, odor-free, and brittle solid, sulfur is water-insoluble but can be dissolved in carbon disulfide. It is important to all living things, including human beings, animals, and plants. For humans and animals, they get it only from plants. An average human takes in about 1 gram daily, mainly in proteins.

It is taken up as sulfate from the soil or seawater for plants or algae and is considered an essential nutrient in crop production. It is used to make among the two essential amino acids needed to make proteins. It is classified as a secondary element together with magnesium and calcium but is sometimes described as “the 4th major nutrient.” Moreover, sulfur is used to make sulfur fertilizers.

Key Roles of Sulfur to Plants

1. Protein production. Sulfur is a component of three sulfur-containing amino acids: cysteine, cysteine, and methionine, which are protein’s building blocks. 

2. Oil synthesis. For oilseeds, much sulfur is essential.

3. Formation of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a primary component in photosynthesis, which green plants undergo to produce their own food. 

4. Activation of enzymes. Enzymes are important for breaking fats, protein, and carbohydrates into smaller molecules that the cells can use to get energy and undergo processes that allow plants to survive. Without enzymes, these physiological processes would not be possible, even for animals.

5. Helps with plants’ special metabolism. Sulfur is also associated with the structural characteristics of protoplasm.

6. Increases crop yields and improves the quality of produce. These two things determine the market price of a farmer’s produce.

7. Sulfur helps plants to resist diseases and aids in growth and seed formation.

Sulfur Deficiency in Plants

Sulfur deficiency in plants impacts protein synthesis, chlorophyll production, and plant function and structure. Simply put, it affects the total development and maturity of plants. Hence, affecting a farmer’s yields. Fortunately, it is not common in irrigated rice. Instead, it generally takes place in allophane-containing soils, soils with low organic material status, sandy soils, and highly-weathered soils, which contain large quantities of iron oxides. Also, frequent rainfall affects the amount of available sulfur by moving it further down into the soils, making it difficult for many plants to absorb.

To identify a sulfur deficiency in your plants, look for the following signs:

  • Lower leaves don’t show necrosis
  • Yellow or pale green color of the entire plant
  • Leaves are player yellow
  • Young leaves are light green (chlorotic), with the tips becoming necrotic

How to Correct Sulfur Deficiency

There are numerous products readily available nowadays to correct a sulfur deficiency. The one you will use will depend on the soil conditions of your field and if there are other problems identified. Here are some of these products:

  • Elemental Sulfur
  • Ammonium sulfate
  • Ammonium thiosulfate
  • Gypsum 
  • Manure
  • Time
  • Impacts of fertilizers containing sulfur on soil pH 

Importance of Bentonite Clay to Sulfur Fertilizers

You most likely question the role of bentonite clay in sulfur fertilizers. This natural and unmodified clay acts as an effective and reliable conditioner to improve soil structure and boost water and fertilizer use. Its overall performance includes the safety of plants, aquatic systems, animals, and microorganisms and its cost-effectivity.

Here are some of its benefits:

  • Maximizes water and fertilizer retention in sandy soils.
  • Enhances water absorption on water repellent or non-wetting soils.
  • Supplies soluble plant nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
  • Improves the soil quality for lawns, vegetable gardens, pot plants, and native gardens.

Visit Keg River, one of the premier producers of sulfur fertilizers in North America, to find out more about bentonite clay and sulfur fertilizers.