Is Sulfur is a Limiting Nutrient for Soybean Production?

Worksite Location
Work will be conducted primarily in the 10 county region of the NWNY CCE Team.
Project Dates
June 1 – Aug 15, 2018
Faculty Sponsor
Quirine Ketterings
Field Mentors/Supervisors
Jodi Letham, Field Crops Specialist, NWNY Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Team
Stipend Amount
Project Summary and Intended Outcomes

The goal of this on-farm research is to identify if sulfur deficiencies do exist in soybean crop rotations and test if additional sulfur fertilization will result in increased yields. Producers will be able to identify if sulfur is a limiting nutrient on farm production, identify key factors that lead to sulfur deficiencies (crop rotations, reduced manure application), and understand how to identify fields with the potential to become sulfur deficient. The multi-county experiment will focus on testing the accuracy of current management tools and practices for making decisions on sulfur management in soybeans. In addition, the experiment will examine use of two forms of sulfur fertilizers (gypsum and ammonium sulfate) at the rate of 30 lbs S/acre to determine if sulfur uptake is impacted by nitrogen availability

Roles and Responsibilities

The Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program is collaborating with Jodi Letham and the NWNY Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Team to conduct applied research and Extension programming that will benefit crop and dairy producers across several counties in New York State. Soybean production is common to most NY field crop and dairy farms and critical to their economic viability. Despite improved management practices and crop genetics, many opportunities remain to improve soil health, crop quality and yield to enhance farm net profitability. The proposed internship project is designed to help soybean producers identify and address if nutrient deficiencies, specifically sulfur, exist in their soils and if their current management tools and practices for making decisions on sulfur are accurate. The intern will assist with a sulfur status survey on soybean (soil, tissue and yield sampling) and evaluate the impact of gypsum vs. ammonium sulfate application at a standardized rate of 30 lbs S/ acre to determine if sulfur uptake is impacted by nitrogen availability. Other on-farm research projects and surveys of which the intern will assist with include weed ID and sampling, plant disease sampling, insect scouting/trapping, industrial hemp trials, etc. Additionally the intern will visit farmer fields throughout the 10 county region and gather input for weekly Crop Alert bulletins authored by the Extension Educator. The intern will have the opportunity to write an agronomy factsheet, and participate in other extension events, ranging from attending Twilight meetings and Tactical Agriculture Team (TAg) meetings for producers, interactions with local crop consulting firms, work with the dairy, livestock and farm business counterparts in the NWNY Dairy, Livestock, & Field Crops Team, etc. The intern will also assist in social media (Facebook, YouTube, Google Maps, Twitter, etc.) extension activities. The internship provides an outstanding opportunity for an agriculturalist-in-training to shadow leading extension professionals as they interact with producers, agribusiness, research specialists and the general public. 

Qualifications and Previous Coursework

A strong interest in production agriculture is essential. Coursework and/or practical experience in field crop production, soil science, nutrient management and pest/disease management are preferred. A willingness to work hard, learn quickly, and professionally interact with farmers and other members of the agricultural community are essential for success in this position. 

Benefits and Skills

On-farm research is the key to identifying new, successful, and innovative management tools, and practices for decision making. By working with ten to fifteen producers on this project the intern will benefit from their involvement in the research and gain expertise in testing of accuracy of current management tools and practices for sulfur management in soybeans. Each producer brings their own experience and expertise that can add to our field knowledge and overall experimental design layout to help the intern determine what kind of responses throughout the field and plot they should expect to see. Everyone can learn from each other what agronomic methods might work in their type of local farming system. Additionally, the multiple county participation serves to strengthen producer communication with CCE specialists and expose the intern to a variety of agronomic and local networks. In addition, through the other activities and projects, the intern will gain a variety of skills relevant to field crops production.