Tree Fruit Soils and Nutrition



The 17 essential elements are: 

C H O P K N S Ca Fe Mg B Mn Cu Zn Mo Cl Ni

Sulfur (S)

Form used by plants:

SO42- (sulfate) 
Both solution- and adsorbed- sulfate are forms available for plant use.

Important functions:

  • Required for synthesis of amino acids and proteins

  • Involved in electron transport during photosynthesis

  • Component of protoplasm

Ideal foliage range for apple leaves:

0.2-0.4% or 250-600 mg sulfate-S/kg 

(note: leaf S tests are typically NOT performed with most analytical services)


Crop requirements:

Similar to P or Mg, approximately 15-35 pounds per acre per year are taken up by the crop.

Ideal soil range:

  • SO42- (sulfate)

  • low: < 2 ppm

  • medium: 2-10 ppm

  • sufficient: > 10 ppm

sulfate is relatively mobile in soils

Best indicators: 

Very little information exists about sulfur in orchard nutrition.  Immature shoot tip leaves are the preferred tissue for diagnosing S deficiency.  Sulfate-S concentrations of 100 ppm or less are associated with S deficiency.

Mobility in plant:

Not remobilized within plant

Deficiency symptoms: sulfurDef.JPG (10581 bytes)

Similar symptoms to N deficiency except younger leaves are affected first. 

Increased risk of S deficiencies on:

Coarse-textured soils that have low organic matter content, shallow soils or soils in which the topsoil has been removed by erosion.  When in the sulfate form (SO42-), it may be readily lost via leaching through coarse-textured soils.

Excess problems/Interactions with other elements:

  • Excess sulfate reduces molybdenum uptake


Updated July 13, 2004


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