Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

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

  • 104 Accesses

  • 11 Citations


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Achorn FP, Bixby D (1971) Manufacturing fertilizer sulfur products. In: Bul Y-35, Marketing fertilizer sulfur. National Fertilizer Development Center, Tennessee Valley Authority, pp 30–37

  2. Bardsley CE, Lancaster JD (1960) Determination of reserve sulfur and sulfates in soils. Soil Sci Soc Am Proc 24:265–268

  3. Bole JB (1986) Uptake of N labeled urea and P labeled phosphate from acid based urea phosphate and granular fertilizer. Can J Soil Sci 66:188–193

  4. Cates RL, Haby VA, Skogley EO, Ferguson H (1984) Effects of by product sulfuric acid on phytoavailability of nutrients in irrigated calcareous, saline-sodic soils. J Environ Qual 13:252–255

  5. Clement L (1978) Sulphur increases the availability of phosphorus on calcareous soils. Sulph Agric 2:9–12

  6. Hanson RL, Westfall DG (1986) Orthophosphate solubility transformations and availability from dual applied nitrogen and phosphorus: Calcareous soil. Soil Sci Soc Am Proc 50:1368–1370

  7. Lee A, Bagyaraj DJ (1986) Effect of soil inoculation with vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and either phosphate rock dissolving bacteria or Thiobacilli on dry matter production and uptake of phosphorus by tomato plants. NZJ Agric Res 29:525–531

  8. Lindsay WL (1979) Chemical equilibrium in soils. Wiley, New York

  9. Lipman JG, McClean HC (1916) The oxidation of sulfur in soils as a means of increasing the availability of mineral phosphates. Soil Sci 6:533–539

  10. Lipman JG, Blair AW, Martin WH, Beckwith CS (1921) Inoculated sulfur as a plant-food solvent. Soil Sci 11:87–92

  11. McCready RGL, Krouse HR (1982) Sulfur isotope fractionation during the oxidation of elemental sulfur by thiobacilli in a solenetzic soil. Can J Soil Sci 62:105–110

  12. McGeorge WT, Frazier WA (1939) Sulfur placement in the fertilization of alkaline soils. Soil Sci Soc Am Proc 4:288–289

  13. Olsen SR, Watanabe FS, Dean LA (1954) Estimation of available phosphorus in soils by extraction with sodium bicarbonate. Circular 939, USDA, Government Printing Office, Washington DC

  14. Peck HD, Fisher E (1962) The oxidation of thiosulphate and phosphorylation in extracts of Thiobacillus thioparus. J Biol Chem 237:190–197

  15. Postgate JR (1966) Media for sulfur bacteria. Lab Pract 15:1239–1244

  16. Ryan J, Stroehline JL (1979) Sulfuric acid treatment on calcareous soils: Effects on phosphorus solubility, inorganic phosphorus forms, and plant growth. Soil Sci Soc Am J 43:731–735

  17. Sen Gupta MB, Cornfield AH (1964) Effect of four acidifying materials added to a calcareous soil on the availability of phosphorus to ryegrass. Plant and Soil 21:388–390

  18. Swaby RJ (1983) Production and uses of biological super phosphate. In: Soils, an Australian viewpoint. Division of Soils, CSIRO, Melbourne. Academic Press, Sydney, pp 817–823

  19. US Salinity Laboratory (1954) Diagnosis and improvement of saline and alkali soils. Agric Handb 60, USDA, Government Printing office, Washington DC

  20. Wainwright M (1984) Sulfur oxidation in soils. Adv Agron 37:349–397

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to E. O. Skogley.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

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).

Download citation

Key words

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