Do you need to apply sulfur to reach your corn yield goals?

Percent Difference of Corn Grain YieldThere is a general interest in applying sulfur fertilizer to maximize corn productivity and we’ve heard industry professionals claim that sulfur deficiency this widespread across Ohio. How much truth is there to this? Do we have a widespread sulfur deficiency in Ohio?

Since 2013, Ohio State University Extension has run 53 sulfur trials in corn, primarily with spring-applied sulfur (gypsum, ammonium sulfate, or thiosulfate) before planting, at-planting, or soon after planting. Not surprisingly, applying these readily available sulfur sources typically increases sulfur concentrations in leaf tissue and corn grain. However, the impacts on corn grain yield are less consistent, with only 44% of trials showing a positive response to sulfur (Figure 1). Interestingly, only 5 trials showed a statistically significant positive response, and 3 trials where in-furrow applications resulted in significant yield decline, presumably due to high salt content. Our data suggest that sulfur deficiency is not a widespread problem in Ohio, but some corn fields will positively respond to sulfur fertilization. We continue to monitor and evaluate the need through on-farm trials. The Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations provide more guidance on managing sulfur and provide specifics about when crop response to S is more likely to be seen:

Crop Observation and Recommendation Network

C.O.R.N. Newsletter is a summary of crop observations, related information, and appropriate recommendations for Ohio crop producers and industry. C.O.R.N. Newsletter is produced by the Ohio State University Extension Agronomy Team, state specialists at The Ohio State University and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). C.O.R.N. Newsletter questions are directed to Extension and OARDC state specialists and associates at Ohio State.