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Band-applied elemental sulfur to enhance the phytoavailability of phosphorus in alkaline calcareous soils

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Summary

Applications of elemental sulfur (S°) increase the phytoavailability of P in alkaline high-Ca soils through the production of H2SO4 which is induced by microbial oxidation of S. Concentrated S bands, allowing “time release” acidity, may aid in maintaining the phytoavailability of both residual and fertilizer P. Greenhouse and field studies were therefore conducted to determine the effectiveness of band-applied S° for increasing the phytoavailability of residual and fertilizer P for spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and corn (Zea mays L.). We also used inoculation of S° with Thiobacillus thioparus to determine whether it is necessary or helpful in alkaline soils to initiate acidification. Treatments were inoculation, S°, S° + inoculation, triple superphosphate, triple superphosphate + S°, triple superphosphate + inoculation, and triple superphosphate + S° + inoculation applied to three alkaline soils: Typic Argiborolls, Borollic Calciorthids, and Ustollic Haplargids. P availability was determined by plant uptake of P, NaHCO3-extractable P, dry-matter yield, grain yield and grain-protein production, and on available-P index (NaHCO3-extractable P, post-harvest, + plant uptake of P). Application of S° with triple superphosphate gave a significantly higher available-P index than triple superphosphate alone on all three soils. Inoculation of S° with T. thioparus increased soil acidity; however, in some cases this treatment eliminated the beneficial effect of S°. Grain yields of wheat increased with S° applications at one of two field sites. These results suggest that applying S° with triple superphosphate may be an effective means of increasing soil P availability and the efficiency of superphosphate fertilizers on alkaline high-Ca soils.

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Correspondence to E. O. Skogley.

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DeLuca, T.H., Skogley, E.O. & Engel, R.E. Band-applied elemental sulfur to enhance the phytoavailability of phosphorus in alkaline calcareous soils. Biol Fert Soils 7, 346–350 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00257831

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Key words

  • Sulfur oxidation
  • Acidification
  • Alkaline soils
  • Available P
  • Thiobacillus thioparus
  • Triticum aestivum L.