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Sulfur Deficiency in Plants

CROPS IMPACTED: Corn, tomato, rice, and many others

Sulfur Deficiency in Plants

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Sulfur Deficiency in Plants Sulfur Deficiency in Plants

About Sulfur Deficiencies

Life Cycle

Soils may be deficient in sulfur for a number for reasons, such as high rainfall saturating soil and burning vegetation. Soils which contain lots of iron (Fe) oxides and sandy soil both have tendencies to have sulfur deficiencies. Sulfur is vital to plant growth as it helps develop enzymes in plants while acting as an effective soil conditioner. A deficiency in sulfur will affect a plant’s protein synthesis, structure, and chlorophyll production, making it an important concern for crops.

Sulfur deficiency Identification and Habitat


A sulfur deficient plant will experience yellowing or pale green coloring throughout the plant. Younger leaves suffer from chlorosis with their tips becoming necrotic. Overall plant development and growth will be stunted without enough sulfur in the soil. After transplanting, seedlings are likely to have higher mortality rates than normal. These symptoms resemble those of a nitrogen deficiency. To distinguish between the two deficiencies look for red pigmentation in the veins of young leaves for nitrogen deficiencies, while sulfur deficiencies will not typically affect the vein patterns on leaves.


Sulfur deficiencies often occur in areas with heavy rainfall and weathered soils. Since sulfur is water soluble, heavy rain causes the soil to be leached of its sulfur content, leading to sulfur deficiencies in plants. In coastal regions, sea spray can be a substantial source of sulfur, but even islands experience sulfur deficiencies in their soil. Areas with high levels of phosphorus may displace sulfur from the soil, causing higher rates of sulfur deficient plants.

Sulfur Deficiency Management and Control Methods

Cultural Control

For the most part, sulfur deficiencies can be mended by using fertilizer containing sulfur. Fertilizers will provide adequate levels of sulfur to enrich the soil. Maintaining a high organic matter content will also help promote sulfur availability to the roots and decrease the amount of nutrients leached from soil

Chemical Control