Is Sulphur Just for Canola?

Now that China’s Canadian canola embargo has taken effect, dramatically reducing the price and profitability of canola crops, a lot of growers are thinking there’s no real reason for applying sulphur.

While it’s true that sulphur is vital to canola, sulphur is a key element for any kind of plant growth, because it does three key things:

  1. It heightens immunity. Phytoalexins in plants are like the white blood cells in humans. Sulphur helps to produce these phytoalexins. These work to fight stress inside the plant against disease, foreign invaders, and poor environmental conditions.
  2. It creates a natural antibiotic. When plants take up the sulphate, they actually convert it back into Elemental Sulphur (ES) again. The presence of this ES in the plant is a natural antibiotic; if a plant does get an infection, this slows down the spread of bacteria.
  3. It helps build protein. Most growers already add plenty of nitrogen (N). But there needs to be a balance of sulphur (S) with nitrogen, because together they combine to form two key amino acids that are needed to build the plant’s protein. Keeping N:S ratios correctly balanced will give you better, stronger plants with higher protein.

Recommended Ratio of Nitrogen to Sulphur 

Type of Crop – Nitrogen : Sulphur

Canola  6.5 : 1

Cereals  8 : 1

Legumes 10 : 1

Achieving higher protein in crops can pay off. According to Agronomist Brent Tarasoff, “I have seen my clients getting higher protein content in wheat after applying sulphur. Normal wheat has 13.5 percent protein, and I’ve seen growers with protein as low as 9 or 10 percent. But my growers are getting 15 percent through using sulphur.”

Tarasoff explains that this higher protein content definitely pays the grower. “On a yield of 100 bushels with one of my growers, improving protein gave a $70/acre premium. I’ve seen similar results in a lot of other cases too.”

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