Nutrien unveils new granular sulfur product

SmartNutrition MAP+MST packs elemental sulfur in granulated prills.

Nutrien has a new fertilizer product that can help crops meet their sulfur needs. The company’s SmartNutrition MAP+MST is a granular 9-43-0-16S formulation, containing elemental sulfur to deliver sulfur to the crop throughout the growing season. 

The product includes monoammonium phosphate (MAP) plus Nutrien’s micronized sulfur technology (used under license from Sulvaris Inc.), which packs sulfur into particles 15 microns in size. Cristie Preston, field agronomist at Nutrien, says the sulfur within the granules contains about 15% elemental sulfur, which are easier to oxidize in a variety of soil and environmental conditions, plus 1% to 2% sulfate, which is immediately available.

The elemental sulfur must be oxidized to sulfate before the plant can use it, which makes SmartNutrition MAP+MST ideal for fall application. “This product is not leaching,” Preston adds. 

Why sulfur matters

Sulfur is considered the fourth-most critical nutrient, behind nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. It is necessary for plant growth and plays a major role in photosynthesis, chlorophyll, and nitrogen fixation. In the book Hands-On Agronomy, agronomist Neal Kinsey writes that, present in adequate amounts, sulfur helps seedlings survive cool and wet soils and promotes rapid root development during early growth periods.

It used to be that sulfur was deposited with rain, but more stringent Environmental Protection Agency standards have limited the amount of sulfur deposited in the atmosphere. Thus, sulfur needs to be applied by farmers to ensure the plants’ needs are met. 

“With higher soybean and corn yields comes higher nutrient removal and higher amount of nutrients are needed to meet those yield goals,” Preston says. “Since we’ve had a lack of sulfur application in the past, we’re seeing sulfur deficiency more and more.” 

According to IPNI (formerly the International Plant Nutrition Institute) high-yielding crops remove lots of sulfur: 

  • Corn, 200 bushels per acre: 16 pounds per acre
  • Soybeans, 65 bushels per acre: 10 pounds per acre
  • Winter wheat, 60 bushels per acre: 6 pounds per acre in grain, 8 pounds per acre in stover
  • Alfalfa, 1 ton per acre: 5.4 pounds per ton
  • Sorghum, 100 bushels per acre: 6 pounds per acre
  • Canola, 50 bushels per acre: 12 pounds per acre

Sulfur deficiency is more likely to occur on sandy soils and in fields with low organic matter. In corn, symptoms are similar to nitrogen defieincy, with an overall yellow appearance. However, sulfur deficiency will occur first on younger leaves. In soybeans, sulfur deficiency can be identified by plant yellowing in the upper canopy and early in the season, symptoms include slow plant growth and delayed maturity. 

Comparison of MST to other sulfate products

To meet a crop’s sulfur needs, farmers often use ammonium sulfate (AMS) or ammonium thiosulfate (AMT), both of which also contain nitrogen (the formula is 21-0-0-24S for AMS and 12-0-0-26S for AMT). These are good products, Preston says, but should be applied in the spring to minimize the risk of leaching. On the other hand, SmartNutrition MAP+MST can be applied in the fall without risk of leaching and when farmers typically have more time. The product won’t oxidize when soil temperatures are cooler than 50°F., she adds.

“Farmers are always worried about having enough time in the spring. If we can take away one of those spring practices, it opens up more flexibility,” Preston says. “The smaller particle size [of SmartNutrition MAP+MST]  should be available whenever soil warms up in the spring and is able to be oxidized.” Nutrien research shows that corn yields using SmartNutrition MAP+MST are similar to those using AMS, proving that the sulfur oxidized in the spring is quick enough for the crop to use it. 

Other reasons farmers may prefer SmartNutrition MAP+MST is that each granule is 68% fertilizer. “You can cover more acres per ton of product,” Preston says. 

Also, the product may be blended with other dry fertilizer formulations, adds Doug Sibbitt, marketing representative for Nutrien. 

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