BLADENBORO - The fall and winter were less than ideal for wheat crops
in southeastern North Carolina. Most fields were planted late because
of wet weather or in response to favorable wheat prices forecast for 2007.
Because of this situation, growers who are looking for optimum yields
and the best return on their investment should monitor soil fertility
and plant nutritional status, particularly to see if a sulfur deficiency
Soil tests conducted by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer
Services measure important plant nutrients, including sulfur, and provide
recommendations for fertilization, if necessary. Growers should check
their recent soil reports and make sure they have not overlooked any sulfur
problems. However, if soil reports are several months old and rain has
been frequent in the interim, tissue testing is the quickest and most
reliable way to check for low sulfur levels. Last year, 26 percent of
all wheat plants tested needed additional sulfur.
Sulfur affects plant metabolism, enzyme activities and protein production.
Plants deficient in sulfur will be small, spindly and light green or yellow
in color. They will not be able to use available nitrogen efficiently.
"Growers looking for a high return on their investment need to pay
attention to sulfur fertilization," said Rick Morris, a regional
agronomist with the NCDA&CS. "Applying sulfur based on soil test
or plant-tissue recommendations can often increase yields by 5 bushels
per acre. Generally, a high-yielding wheat crop will take up about a quarter-pound
of sulfur for each bushel of wheat produced."
If you suspect a sulfur deficiency, collect plant tissue samples and
send them to the NCDA&CS Agronomic Division. If a sulfur deficiency
is confirmed or there is a history of sulfur deficiency, apply 20 to 25
pounds of sulfur per acre along with any other fertilizer recommended.
A number of sulfur sources are available through local fertilizer dealers.
For information on how to collect and submit soil or plant
tissue samples, call the NCDA&CS Agronomic Division at (919) 733-2655
for the name and number of the area regional agronomist. Growers in Bladen,
Brunswick, Columbus, Cumberland and Robeson counties should call Rick
Morris at (910) 866-5485.