Sulfur Deficiency in Wheat: Three Ways to Identify

Sulfur deficiency can risk plant health and ultimately yield in any crop. Being able to identify the symptoms of sulfur deficiency in your crop is the first step to solving the problem that may be holding your crop back from achieving optimal yields. We previously discussed the signs of sulfur deficiency in corn and canola, but wheat exhibits symptoms slightly different to other crops when it comes to low sulfur. Be on the lookout for the three signs below to identify sulfur deficiency in your wheat crop.


1. Patchy fields

Sulfur deficiency in wheat can often be easily identified by pale yellow patches in the field. These patches are mostly found on soils that have previously eroded or have experienced soil movement. For example, eroded hilltops and side slopes where there is a reduction in organic matter or where leaching is more evident will be more likely to show signs of sulfur deficiency in the wheat crop.

Image by IPNI

2. Yellowing on younger leaves

In comparison to nitrogen deficiency where older leaves show yellowing first, sulfur is less mobile in the plant so keeping a close eye on younger or upper leaves for yellowing is crucial. Younger leaves will yellow first, however sulfur deficient wheat plants will ultimately become fully yellow.

3. Stems become red

With extended deficiency of sulfur in wheat, the whole crop will appear uniformly yellow, and stems may become red. To avoid reaching this extent of deficiency, catching symptoms like the start of yellowing on younger leaves may allow you to avoid further damage by creating a crop nutrition plan early on.

Assessing the symptoms

So, you’ve determined that your wheat crop is looking patchy yellow and it’s evident in the younger leaves… what’s next? A soil test and tissue test can help you to solidify your suspicions that your wheat is sulfur deficient. Plant available sulfur may vary from area to area in fields, so ensure that you test parts of the field that are well drained or low in organic matter to get the best idea of what steps to take next in solving the sulfur deficiency.

Make a sulfur nutrition plan

Maximizing your wheat production is dependent on the timing of nutrient availability. Understanding your soil can give you a great start to figuring out when and how much sulfur application is needed. Smart Nutrition™ MAP+MST® acts as a slow-release sulfur fertilizer, allowing for fall or spring application with season long sulfur availability compared to conventional sources. Learn more about Smart Nutrition MAP+MST use in wheat or get your questions answered by an agronomist.