Consider sulphur applications for optimal grass growth

Following a wet winter for UK farmers, with heavy rainfall saturating fields, higher levels of sulphate leaching can lead to a lack of sulphur available in the soil for silage grass.

This nutrient deficiency negatively impacts the growth, quality, and yield of silage – unless grassland is supplemented with a sulphur-based fertiliser during spring.

In fact, AHDB reports show that applying sulphur to grassland in spring can lift the dry matter yields of silage by up to 15%.

This blog explains the various functions of sulphur, which make it a critical nutrient for producing high-quality, protein-rich silage, and how fertiliser application can help overcome shortfalls in soil-supplied sulphur for better silage yields.

Boost protein synthesis for improved grass growth

In all crops, sulphur plays an important role in supporting nitrogen in protein production. That’s why combined nitrogen-sulphur fertilisers like Dynamon, are so effective at providing a balanced nutrient supply to crops.

Once absorbed from the soil, in the form of sulphate ions, grass plants use sulphur as an essential component of two vital amino acids, methionine and cysteine – the building blocks of proteins in plant tissues.

These proteins are needed for various plant physiological processes, such as enzyme activity, cell structure, and signalling pathways, as well as the formation of new leaves, stems and roots.

Without sufficient sulphur, grass cannot produce amino acids adequately, leading to a deficiency in protein synthesis.

Lower levels of proteins are produced, resulting in lower yields of poorer quality silage with reduced nutritional value for livestock.

To prevent this, sulphur application in spring can enhance the nutritional value of grass by promoting the synthesis of proteins with balanced amino acid profiles.

Read more guidance on spring fertiliser application for grass crops.

Enhance nutrient uptake to drive grass crop productivity

Sulphur has an impact on root physiology and soil chemistry, indirectly influencing the uptake of other essential nutrients within a grass crop.

For optimal growth and productivity, silage grass requires adequate levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Sulphur facilitates the absorption of these nutrients by influencing soil pH and root physiology. For example, sulphur can stimulate root growth, increasing the surface area available for nutrient absorption.

Applying a fertiliser that contains sulphur, such as Dynamon, can also enhance the production of root exudates which promote soil microbial activity and nutrient cycling, making phosphorus and potassium more accessible to grass roots.

Enhanced nutrient utilisation leads to increased biomass production and improved plant vigour. This contributes to better silage yields with higher forage quality.

Optimise photosynthesis for greater silage yields

Another way in which sulphur application can enhance the overall quality of silage is by optimising photosynthesis in grass plants.

Specifically, sulphur is an essential element of the porphyrin ring structure of chlorophyll, which is responsible for capturing light energy for photosynthesis.

The nutrient’s availability directly impacts the production and abundance of chlorophyll in plant tissues.

Grass plants with higher chlorophyll levels are more efficient at photosynthesis, leading to increased production of carbohydrates and biomass.

This results in healthier, more vigorous grass crops capable of producing greater silage yields.

Improve- grass crop resilience against weather conditions

Sulphur is involved in various biochemical and physiological processes that contribute to a plant’s ability to tolerate environmental stresses, such as extreme weather.

Sulphur-containing compounds, such as glutathione, play a crucial role in a grass crop’s antioxidant defence system.

Glutathione acts as a scavenger of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are generated under stress conditions and can damage cellular components such as membranes, proteins, and DNA.

By neutralising ROS, glutathione helps protect plant cells from oxidative stress associated with environmental factors like drought and cold. This helps maintain consistent grass yields through challenging weather conditions.

Sulphur is also involved in osmotic adjustment, helping to maintain cell turgor pressure and water uptake, which enables plants to withstand dry periods.

Enhance disease resistance in grass crops

Sulphur plays a further role in plant defence by contributing to the synthesis of compounds such as phytoalexins and glucosinolates, which have antimicrobial properties.

Phytoalexins are small molecules that inhibit the growth and spread of pathogens, whereas glucosinolates are sulphur-containing compounds that are converted into toxic compounds upon tissue damage, deterring herbivores and pathogens.

Sulphur-deficient plants may exhibit reduced levels of phytoalexins and glucosinolates, compromising their ability to mount an effective defence against pathogens.

This can make them more susceptible to diseases, such as fungal infections, which can cause significant yield losses in silage grass crops.

Additionally, sulphur deficiency may impair other aspects of a plant’s immune response, such as the production of reactive oxygen species and cell wall strengthening compounds, further increasing susceptibility to diseases.

By supporting defence-related compounds, sulphur application can ultimately reduce the incidence of disease in grass crops, improving health and productivity for better silage yields.

Read more advice on preventing disease and enhancing soil health.

Apply sulphur this spring to maximise silage yields

In summary, sulphur applications in spring can be crucial for optimising grass growth, improving silage yields, and enhancing overall forage quality.

By carrying out soil testing and addressing sulphur deficiencies if needed, farmers can achieve healthier grass crops, a higher-quality winter feedstock, and ultimately, deliver nutritional benefits for livestock.

Ensure your grassland has enough sulphur available during the growing season with Dynamon, our nitrogen-sulphur fertiliser.

Recognised by its yellow granules, Dynamon has an ideal nitrogen/sulphur ratio, containing 24% nitrogen and 7% sulphur, for efficient nutrient utilisation all-round.

Learn how Dynamon can bolster grass growth for high-yielding, protein-rich silage.

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