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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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10 things to know about the ‘Cinderella of nutrients’ and its role in silage-making

The Fertilizer Association of Ireland (FAI) in conjunction with Teagasc recently launched technical bulletin series no. 6, entitled the role of sulphur in crop production.

According to the publication, sulphur is an “essential” plant nutrient and a “key” component of a number of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins and vitamins that are “vital” to both plants and animals.

At the launch, Dr. Noel Culleton, former Head of Centre at Johnstown Castle, said that “sulphur is almost a forgotten element”.

“It is the Cinderella of nutrients. Sulphur research was initiated here at Johnstown Castle with the early work done by Jim Brogan, Willie Murphy, Tom Gately, and Matt Murphy.”

“Matt was responsible for delineating the soil types which are susceptible to sulphur deficiency. I am delighted to see the revival of research in sulphur.”

“These new well designed, and elegant trials by Claire Aspel and Patrick Forrestal have breathed new life into Sulphur research.”

“It is just tremendous to see this new take on sulphur and how important of a role sulphur can play in improving the efficiency of nitrogenous fertilisers.”

Silage

Sulphur (S) is a protein building block in grass and tillage crop production for high yields of both quality grass and grain.

Noel highlighted the important role that S plays in intensively cut grass silage. He stressed that it will be “very” important in the current year for second-cut grass silage crops.

Technical bulletin no. 6 demonstrates the impact that S has on grass yield during the growing season.

Dr. Tim Sheil, the president of the FAI, added: “Applying the correct levels of sulphur to meet grass and grain requirements can increase nitrogen efficiency by up to 25%.”

“It is now maximising the return from nitrogen in terms of production, economics and reducing losses to the environment.”

Research

Teagasc Walsh Scholar, Claire Aspel, reported on her work showing that sulphur increased grass yield and fertiliser nitrogen efficiency on free-draining soils while simultaneously reducing nitrate leaching loss very significantly, particularly where slurry is applied.

Dr. Patrick Forrestal, Teagasc, Johnstown Castle, said:

“Claire’s work shows that adequate sulphur nutrition is a potential tool to help address nitrate water quality challenges while benefiting farmers through improved yields.”

Furthermore, he encourages farmers to include sulphur in their fertiliser plan, particularly for silage cuts and on lighter soils.

Dr. David Wall, Teagasc Johnstown Castle, said: “That achieving balanced crop nutrition is a critical driver of efficient nutrient use and for maximising the recovery of N by crops”.

Fertiliser plan 

Furthermore, Teagasc Specialist Advisor, Mark Plunkett, stressed the importance of checking the farm fertiliser plan.

He advises that you must choose the correct fertiliser type to deliver the recommended rate of S at the right time, especially on lighter soil types.

Technical bulletin no.6 provides the “most” up-to-date knowledge outlining guidance on recommended rates of S and suitable fertiliser products to meet grass and tillage crops.

10 things to know about Sulphur (S) highlighted in the publication

  • Sulphur is an essential plant nutrient;
  • It increases N use efficiency;
  • Furthermore, it is a negatively charged anion & easily leached;
  • Soil organic matter is the main source of soil S;
  • You apply in sulphate fertiliser form;
  • Deficiency symptoms are yellowing on the youngest leaf;
  • Sulphur advice is similar to phosphorus advice;
  • In Ireland, it is recommended as total S (Elemental S);
  • The UK & the EU sulphur advice is declared in oxide form (SO³);
  • Conversion oxide (SO³) to elemental S multiply by 0.4.
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