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Improving Management of Hard Red Spring Wheat with Sulfur Fertilizer Applications and Variable Rate Nitrogen

Start Date: 2017
Principal Investigator: Dave Gafstrom
Organization: Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotion Council
Status: Ongoing

Background Info

Sulfur is an essential element and plays a major role in protein synthesis in plants. Sulfur, in the sulfate form, is very mobile in the soil. In the last few years, farmers and crop consultants have observed sulfur deficiencies in several crops in northern Minnesota. Potential explanations for these sulfur deficiencies include:

  1. Increased crop yields require more sulfur
  2. Increased leaching of sulfur due to elevated rainfall patterns
  3. Reduced concentration of sulfur in rainfall over the last 30 years
  4. Manure not applied to cropland due to a decline in the number of dairy enterprises.

Objectives

Determine if applying nitrogen with variable rate technology (VRT) results in a higher net return compared to applying flat rate of N.

To compare wheat yields and quality from supplemental sulfur applied to spring wheat.

Identify a core group of farmer cooperators and crop consultants willing to assist in field scale on-farm research.

Key Findings

It was hypothesized that in wheat fields with coarse textured soils in low organic matter we would see a positive result from the addition of AMS. However, environmental conditions in the 2017 growing season may have contributed to the mineralization of sulfur, which would satisfy plant nutrient requirements. Thus, if the addition of supplemental sulfur was not required for the plant, the added cost of sulfur would have a negative financial consequence in the economic analysis. The added sulfur fertility had a negative impact on test weight and tended to have lower protein and grain yields compared to no sulfur. However, this was the first year of this trial and more locations are required.

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