Sulphur is an essential nutrient and is often called the fourth major nutrient behind nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. But since 1990, sulphur has been slowly depleted from the soil, which has impacted crop performance, says Don Sutton, Sales Manager of Tiger-Sul Products in the U.S. and Canada.
That depletion is rooted in a 1990 amendment to the Clean Air Act, which introduced a nationwide approach to reduce air pollution, known as acid rain. An important measure implemented to control acid rain was the reduction of sulphur released into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels. So, with sulphur being reduced in the air, less of it began to be deposited to the soil, Sutton says.
“While reducing sulphur in the air was great for cleaning up the environment and reducing acid rain, we were no longer getting free deposits of it into our farm fields,” Sutton explains. “We probably didn’t totally understand how important sulphur was to crops, but we now know that it is vital.”
The deficiency became apparent in some agricultural soils several years ago, but it is now widespread, Sutton notes. Growers can literally see sulphur deficiency in the yellowing of new leaves on crops. What they can’t see, however, is a “hidden hunger” for it in crops.
“We’re seeing sulphur deficiencies throughout the Corn Belt and down through the Mississippi Delta,” Sutton adds, noting that 81% of 55 soil samples pulled from research trials at the Mississippi Delta last year revealed deficiencies in agricultural soils from well-maintained farms. “Growers have found that a sulphur deficiency can be a limiting factor in achieving full yield potential.”
Hence, more growers realize the need to apply sulphur bentonite on their crops, Sutton says, noting that Tiger-Sul’s Tiger 90CR Sulphur (90% elemental sulphur with 10% bentonite clay) and Tiger XP (85% elemental sulphur with 14% bentonite clay and 1% proprietary activators) contain the highest sulphur analysis in the industry and can have an extensive impact on crop health and yield.
A crop’s need for sulphur is strongly associated with nitrogen, Sutton adds. The two nutrients are both components of protein and participate in chlorophyll formation. Crops requiring high nitrogen also usually require high sulphur.
“There needs to be a proper nitrogen-sulphur ratio in the soil,” Sutton explains. “If that ratio isn’t in the range it should be, it’s going to cause a decrease in yield because the nitrogen is not being utilized as efficiently by the plant. Sulphur makes nitrogen more efficient.”
Fall-applied sulphur bentonite can also reduce the need for ammonium sulfate applications in the spring, Sutton adds.
“When you apply sulphur bentonite products in the fall and there is rainfall, the pastilles absorb moisture, swell up, and fracture into a powder,” Sutton explains. “Then the powder gets washed into the soil over the fall and winter and then into the spring. When the soil temperature begins to warm, the microbes begin converting that sulfur into sulfate, which the plant can utilize for season-long sulfur needs. Sulphur is not mobile in the soil, so it’s not going to leach like an ammonium sulfate.”
Ammonium sulfate contains 24% sulfate, which is the next highest sulphur-based product on the market next to Tiger 90CR and Tiger XP, which contain more than triple the amount of sulphur than ammonium sulfate. Because growers will require less of Tiger-Sul’s products, there will be less handling required for unloading and storage, and less fuel to transport products. Less labor and fuel will also be used in applying the products because fewer applications are needed, Sutton stresses.
Its performance and cost effectiveness are what differentiate Tiger-Sul’s sulphur bentonite products from others.
“There are other products like ammonium sulfate that can be used at certain times of the year that are good products,” Sutton says. “But if you’re really trying to address a sulphur deficiency, our products are going be the most economical product for you to choose.”
Sutton also points to the safety of Tiger-Sul’s sulphur bentonite products, specifically how they are manufactured for enhanced dust suppression. “Safety with sulfur is something every grower and retailer should consider,” he says.
Sutton notes that Tiger-Sul, established in 1964, has vast experience in manufacturing pastilles of uniform size and density for sulphur bentonite. “It’s a real art form,” he says of the process. “Our products also have an excellent spread pattern. Not enough attention is given to that aspect – that not all sulphur bentonite pastilles are made the same.”