Between 2000 and 2009, global crop production rose by 22%. Over the same time period, agricultural land area fell by 1%.

Plant Nutrient Sulphur Deficiencies

The big problem with sulphur in agriculture is quite simple – there’s not enough of it.  Plant Nutrient Sulphur (PNS) deficiencies have been growing for years, and have reached the point in many parts of the world where they are beginning to severely limit crop production.

Key causes of Sulphur Deficiency

Three main causes for these deficiencies:

1. Increased yields means more sulphur out.

Between 2000 and 2009, the world’s crop production increased 22%.  This has been tremendous but essential progress, as the world’s population has continued to grow extremely quickly.

 

According to the UN, there will be more than 9 billion people on this planet by 2050.

Over the same time period, however, the amount of land devoted to agriculture in the world actually went down by 1%. That means that the world is demanding much more from its land than ever before, and the negative effects of this high-intensity cropping are being seen.  Many micronutrients and secondary macronutrientslike sulphur – are being depleted very quickly due to crop removal.

 

2. Relatively greater usage of high-analysis N, P, and K sources means less sulphur in.

It used to be that growers all over the world applied significant volumes of PNS in their fertilizers incidentally.

 

Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium are the nutrients which crops generally require in the highest volumes – these are called the primary macronutrients.  Historically, growers used more N, P, and K sources that contained sulphur – like ammonium sulphate nitrogen fertilizer (24% S), single superphosphate phosphorous fertilizer (14% S), and potassium sulphate fertilizer (17% S).

 

Today, these are giving way more and more to higher analysis sources of N, P, and K, which contain little or no sulphur, like urea, mono-ammonium phosphate (MAP) and muriate of potash (MOP).

 

It is estimated that Chinese soils are sulphur deficient in the amount of over 2,000,000 tonnes per year.

3. Decreased SO2 emissions mean less sulphur in.

Over the past decade, global industry has made tremendous strides in reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases, like sulphur dioxide (SO2).  SO2 is a common emission from coal-fired power plants which, upon chemical reaction with atmospheric gases, produces sulphuric acid and is deposited back to the earth in the form of “acid rain”.

 

Reductions in SO2 emissions are a very positive step forward from an environmental standpoint.  However, the unintended consequence has been the reduction in crop-available plant nutrient sulphur in the soils of many regions.  As we’ve cut down on SO2 emissions, we’ve also decreased many regionally concentrated supplies of PNS.

 

This phenomenon has been well documented in agriculture in a variety of regions. The link below to a 2012 article by Roy Roberson of the Southeast Farm Press describes in excellent detail the impacts that decreased sulphur dioxide emissions are having on soil sulphur deficiencies in that region, and the resultant impacts on crop potential.

 

Read Roy Roberson – Sulfur Deficiency Cutting Yields in Sandy Southeast Soils
 

Sulvaris’ Vitasul product is a 90% source of Plant Nutrient Sulphate. During this time of rising sulphur deficiencies in agriculture, it’s an important breakthrough at the right time.
 
Learn more about Vitasul »

 

Learn more about sulphur in the broader picture of crop nutrition »

 

Data Sources:

World Bank Economic Development Indicators

International Fertilizer Association Statistics

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