8 December 1995

Deficiencies in sulphur spark early warnings

SULPHUR shortages could affect nearly all Britains cereal growing regions within 10 years, according to a Home-Grown Cereals Authority-funded computer study*.

Already there is a high risk of sulphur deficiency in cereals on 11% of the land area, say scientists in the joint IACR-Rothamsted/ADAS-Bridgets project. Another 22% is at medium risk.

Worst affected are south-east Scotland, the Scottish and Welsh borders, East Anglia and south-west England – all regions getting little sulphur from the atmosphere, with light soils low in organic matter.

With sulphur emissions set to fall to 40% of 1980 levels by 2003, the areas at high and medium risk will rise to 22% and 27% respectively, the researchers model forecasts.

Yield booster

"Encouraging results" from applying sulphur validated the models geographic predictions, says ADASs Paul Withers, 40kg/ha (32 units/acre) boosting yield by 4.2-18.4%.

Despite their relatively low sulphur need, winter cereals are clearly susceptible to deficiency, he notes.

*Sulphur Nutrition of Cereals in Britain: Yield Responses and Prediction of Likely Deficiency costs £8 (incl p&p) from HGCA, Hamlyn House, Highgate Hill, London N19 5PR. &#42