Friday, February 09, 2007

The Environmentalists had it All Wrong

Remember Acid Rain? According to this farm newsletter, corn farmers need to use more sulphur in their fertilizer because of reduced levels of sulphur in rain water:

The importance of sulphur (S) for corn production is well known and the rates required for optimum production have been studied.

Sulphur, a plant nutrient, is required by crops in an amount usually less than the macro-nutrients Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (Potash) but at larger amounts than others. A corn crop could require 25 lbs/acre or more for optimum yield.

Over the years we believed crops in Southern Ontario received adequate sulfur from air pollution, in the form of “acid rain”. With society’s efforts to improve air
quality, the amount of sulphur in rainfall is diminishing. Some studies have shown a 32% reduction between 1980 and 2003, with more improvements on the way.

Most fertilizer materials used today do not contain any sulphur. As crop yields improve additional sulphur, along with other nutrients, are required to sustain yields. Sulphur plays an important role in the formation and decomposition of soil organic matter. A proper balance of nitrogen and sulfur is important for crop development.

Sulphur is as important as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in plant metabolic functions, is an important component in plant proteins, and in the formation of chlorophyll. Plants lacking sulphur will become yellow and chlorotic. When soil phosphorous levels are high and sulphur is low, magnesium uptake is reduced even if magnesium levels are abundant.

Sulphur, usually in the sulphate form, has a negative charge and as a result is subject to leaching. Sulphur should be part of any fertilizer program, especially on sandy and low organic matter soils.

Funny no? Just one thought for the eco-doom crowd; Before we decide to cripple our economies for new initiatives, don't forget everything we do has both intended and unitended consequences.


Vek said...

Yeah, but we don't need excess sulfur in our lakes, rivers, water supplies, etc.

Farmers need it in a higher concentration since they so excessively use up the nutrients in the soil by not allowing the plant matter to decay again on the soil, requiring fertilizing.

Patrick O'Neil said...

Hey Vek, I read your blog.

To be clear, I'm sure it's a good thing that there is less air pollution. I just thought the story was funny that even Acid Rain can be beneficial.

I'm not sure about your point on fertilizer, yes farmland is used intensely, but I'd say that's a good thing because I like to eat.