Sulphur is an important nutrient for optimal plant growth; it is one of the key macroelements essential for plant growth. Sulphur is taken up from the soil solution by the plant in the sulphate form (SO4^2-).
In the plant sulphur is a component of methionine, cysteine and cystine, three of the 21 amino acids which are the essential building blocks of proteins.
Animals need to consume methionine in their diet as they cannot manufacture it themselves; methionine is essential for dairy cattle in particular.
Sulphur is also a component of key enzymes and vitamins in the plant and is necessary for the formation of chlorophyll.
In legumes sulphur is necessary for the efficient fixation of nitrogen by the plant.
This makes sulphur of fundamental importance in the establishment and maintenance of legume-based improved pastures. It is also essential for flowering and seed set in canola.
Plants which are deficient in sulphur show a pale green colouration of younger leaves first as sulphur is not very mobile in the plant. In severe cases of sulphur deficiency the entire plant can be stunted and pale green.
Affected plants maybe thin-stemmed and spindly; brassica and canola crops may develop a reddish colouration on the underside of leaves and on stems, and flowers may be pale to greyish in colour.
If your soil test shows your require sulphur, gypsum maybe the most cost effective source of sulphur.
Sulphur can be removed from soil through uptake by plants, leaching through and out of the root zone by rainfall or irrigation, and by volatilisation. Sulphur can be transformed from one form to another in the soil through various biological and physical processes. This movement in and out of the soil between different chemical forms in the soil is known as the sulphur cycle.
The main ways sulphur is removed from pastures and soils is through leaching out of the root zone of plants and by ingestion of pasture by grazing animals. Leaching is the process whereby water, in the form of rainfall, flood waters or irrigation, is flushed through the root zone. This flushing process takes with it dissolved nutrients so that they become unavailable to plants through normal root uptake.
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