A combination of elemental and sulphate-sulphur can improve crop nutrition.
November 15, 2007 By Donna Fleury
For canola growers across western Canada, a new sulphur fertilizer offers another
option for solving sulphur deficiencies. MicroEssentials S15 fertilizer is a
new take on old problems.
"We set out to custom design a fertilizer targetted to the canola market
that would address the two main issues facing growers: maximizing seed-placed
safety and balancing nutrition," says Dr. John Waterer, county agronomist
with Cargill Ag Horizons in Winnipeg. "We accomplished that with the development
of a unique granule of MicroEssentials S15, analysis 13-33-0-15."
The MicroEssentials S15 is a unique product that provides a combination of
elemental and sulphate-sulphur in each granule. This combination means that
each granule includes both a quick release form of sulphur and a slower release
"The process used to manufacture the product lays down the sulphur in
an onion skin fashion in each granule," explains Ron Olson, manager of
worldwide research and development. "This creates a unique environment
once the granule is placed in the soil, creating a very low pH zone around the
granule and making the phosphorus material more readily available to the plant."
According to Waterer, the process provides better phosphorus and sulphur uptake
in the plant, which can translate into healthier crop growth and improved yield
response. Because sulphur is in every granule, there are no concerns over segregation
of the product or crop safety.
"We also focussed on balanced nutrition and getting the right ratios of
nitrogen to phosphorus for the seed-placed product," says Waterer. "Sulphur
is incredibly variable in the landscape and by putting S in every granule, you
can compensate for the variability in the field. It's all about getting the
right nutrients in the right place at the right time."
Waterer says growers pointed out several other benefits as well. The S15 product
results in about 20 percent less bulk of fertilizer than an equivalent blend
of P and ammonium sulphate. "Growers see this as a key benefit with less
handling and fewer trips to fill their seeder during seeding." And because
the product is in a 'blended' form, time savings can be achieved at seeding
Since nitrogen is the component that can potentially cause the most damage
from seed-placed fertilizer, Cargill developed the product with a low nitrogen
analysis. As a result, additional nitrogen must be placed separate from the
seed to satisfy crop requirements. S15 works very well for growers who apply
anhydrous ammonia first, and direct seed in the spring. Another popular option
is to apply the N either as a liquid or granular in a mid-row band.
"All fertilizers potentially have a maximum application rate, and S15
does as well," explains Waterer. "Growers using very narrow openers
with a low seedbed utilization, have to be aware of safe amounts. S15 is much
safer than alternatives, but it isn't bullet-proof."
Not just for canola
Although MicroEssentials S15 was designed specifically for canola crops, Waterer
says growers are also using it in other crops. "We have a lot of growers
using S15 on wheat to try and increase protein content," says Waterer.
"We've been finding that some growers who have a sulphur deficiency showing
up in canola, will also find that the protein content of their subsequent wheat
crops will be surprisingly low considering the amount of nitrogen they use."
Using sulphur in these deficient wheat crops can help improve protein, which
delivers better use efficiency out of the nitrogen fertility program. Research
is also proving the value of S15 in other crops.
"In research we've completed in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin,
we've discovered that by using S15 in alfalfa we get a consistently higher crude
protein level and significantly lower acid detergent fibre," notes Olson.
"This translates into a real strong advantage for getting more pounds of
milk per acre over traditional fertilizer methods." These same improvements
can also benefit beef cattle feeding programs.
A patent for MicroEssentials S15 was awarded in March of 2003. Subsequently,
Cargill continues to develop additional fertilizer products based on the technology.
"We have 19 products in our research pipeline that could potentially have
a MicroEssentials brand on them," says Olson.
The newest release is MESZ, designed for the midwest corn market in the US.
Other potential products could include micronutrients such as boron, manganese
and zinc. -30-