Effect of sulphur on oilseed crops

India is the third largest vegetable oil economy in the world. After cereals, oilseeds are the second largest agricultural commodity, accounting for the 14 % of the gross cropped area and constitute the principal commercial crops of the country. India is the largest contributor to the global Castor production (79.6%) and also contributes substantially to the production of Sesame (31.2%) and Groundnut (25.1%). It is second largest producer of Groundnut and ‘Rapeseed – Mustard’. In India, oilseed crops occupy an area of about 28.53 million hectares with an average production of 32.88 million tonnes (Ministry of Agriculture, GOI, 2013-14). Oils and fats, apart from forming an essential part of human diet, serve as important raw material for the manufacture of soaps, paints and varnishes, hair oils, lubricants, textiles, auxiliaries, pharmaceuticals, etc. Oilcakes and meals are used in animal feeds and as manures.

The bulk of vegetable oil production in India is derived from nine oilseeds; namely, Groundnut, Rapeseed-Mustard, Sesame, Safflower, Niger, Soybean, Sunflower, forming the edible group whereas Linseed and Castor belong to the non-edible group. There has been wide gap between supply and demand of vegetable oils which is being met through imports to the extent of almost 50 % of its requirement. The per capita demand has increased to about to 12.6 kg year-1 compared to 4 kg year-1 in 1961 and the projected demand for the year 2020 and 2050 are 14.57 kg year -1 and 24.10 kg year-1, respectively. To meet this demand, the country will require nearly 21.8 and 45.2 million tons of edible oil, respectively.

Reasons behind the low productivity of oilseeds are numerous but among them, inadequate and imbalanced fertilization are the most important ones. Major avenues for future increase in oilseeds production are expected to come from enhancement in productivity of oilseed crops. To realize this expectation, a proper mix of technologies and strategies needs to be put in place. The unrealized yield due to lack of adoption of proper nutrient management has also been noticed. For example- increased use of high analysis sulphur free fertilizers such as urea in place of ammonium sulphate and diammonium sulphate in place of single super phosphate resulted in the sulphur deficiency in the soil and plants. The reduced use of sulphur containing insecticides and pesticides as well as inadequate application of organic manures in the field leading towards the deficiency of sulphur in crops.

Sulphur essentiality was established long back by Sachs Knop in 1857. It is absorbed by plant roots almost exclusively as sulphate (SO4 -2). Whereas, quantities of SO2 can be absorbed through plant leaves and utilized within plants, but higher concentrations are toxic. To some extent thiosulfate (S2O3 -2) can also be absorbed by roots. Typical S concentrations in plants range from 0.1 to 0.5% (Tisdale et al., 7th edition). Sulphur is required for the synthesis of S-containing amino acids cysteine, cystine and methionine. Sulphur is needed for the synthesis of coenzyme A, which is involved in oxidation and synthesis of fatty acids and oxidation of intermediates of the citric acid cycle. It has been confirmed from the research conducted all over the world that sulphur is quite essential for oilseed crops. Its requirement and benefits are the highest from sulphur fertilization of oilseed crops.

Najar et al., 2011 in their experiment on soybean revealed that the growth, yield attributes, grain and straw yield as well as oil content and nutrient uptake were significantly enhanced with increasing levels of sulphur up to 40 kg S ha-1 but the difference between 30 and 40 kg S ha-1 were not significant. The protein content was maximum with the application of 30 kg S ha-1. Shrama (2011) in two year field experiment on soybean found that S fertilization significantly improved dry matter accumulation, total NPS uptake and oil yield with increasing levels up to 60 kg S ha-1. However, growth parameters, yield attributes, yield, oil content, net return as well as B:C ratio were significantly higher over 20 kg S ha-1 and control, respectively. Madhavi et al., 2015 reported that the seed yield, sulphur content and sulphur uptake of soybean was significantly higher with the application of 40 kg S ha-1 over control and the application of sulphur in split doses was more effective. Laxman et al., 2015 working on soybean reported that the yield attributes, stover yield, oil and protein yields of soybean seed were significantly superior with the application of 45 kg S ha-1 as 50% basal + 50% at flowering over other levels and time of S application. The net return and B:C ratio of soybean were recorded significantly higher with the application of 45 kg S ha-1 applied as 50% basal + 50% at flowering, though it remained comparable with 45 kg S ha-1 applied as basal.

Experiment conducted at Varanasi revealed that increasing levels of sulphur application from 0 to 40 kg S ha-1 markedly improved the yield parameters, seed and stover yield of mustard, but the most profitable rate of S application was found to be 34.03 kg ha-1 (Sah et al., 2005). Kumar et al. (2009) reported that successive increase in the sulphur levels up to 45 kg S ha-1 significantly improved the growth, yield attributes, yield, quality and economics of Indian mustard over 15 kg S ha-1 and control. The similar findings were also reported by Sardana and Sheoran (2011) and Mallick and Raj (2015). Working on mustard Patel et al. (2009) noticed that the growth parameters, yield attributes, yield as well as nutrient uptake were increased with increasing levels of sulphur application up to 40 kg S ha-1. They further revealed that gypsum was a better source of sulphur than elemental sulphur particularly at 40 kg S ha-1. The oil content was significantly improved with application of gypsum. Pachauri and Trivedi, 2012 reported that the application of 90 kg S ha-1 resulted in the significantly highest stover yield, nutrient uptake and oil content of Indian mustard over lower S levels. However, the growth, yield attributes and seed yield was significantly superior over 30 kg S ha-1 and control. The significantly linear increase in yield attributes, pod yield as well as haulm yield of groundnut was recorded with the application of 40 kg S ha -1 over 20 kg S ha-1 and control, respectively. The significantly higher protein content, oil content and oil yield was observed with the application of 60 kg S ha-1 over 20 kg S ha-1 and control (Patel et al., 2009). Dash et al., 2013 noticed that the yield attributes and yield of groundnut were increased significantly with increasing levels of sulphur up to 40 kg ha-1. However, the oil content in seed was increased up to 60 kg S ha-1. Naresha et al., 2014 reported that the application of sulphur through phosphogypsum @ 500 kg ha-1 at flower initiation significantly enhanced the yield attributes and yield of groundnut as compared to the application of sulphur at different stages and with the different sources. Sarkar and Mallick, 2009 in their experiment on sunflower revealed that increasing levels of sulphur application up to 60 kg S ha-1 recorded significantly higher growth, yield attributes, yield, nutrient uptake, oil content and economics of sunflower. Singh et al., 2013 observed that the application of 20 kg S ha -1 recorded significantly higher growth parameters, yield attributes, yield and net return of linseed over control. However, the quality parameters viz. oil and protein contents were significantly improved up to 40 kg S ha-1.


The application of sulphur @ 30 to 40 kg ha

-1 significantly influence the growth, yield, nutrient uptake and economics of oilseed crops in different agro-climatic zone of the country. Sulphur application has pronounced effect on quality parameters of oilseeds. Sulphur application as gypsum at the time of flowering has been found particularly useful to groundnut. The use of gypsum as a source of sulphur has shown distinct superiority over other sources with respect to yield, quality and economics of other oilseed crops.


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Kumar, S., Verma, S. K., Singh, T. K. and Singh, S. Effect of nitrogen and sulphur on growth, yield and nutrient uptake by Indian mustard (Brassica juncea) under rainfed condition. Ind. J. of Agric. Sci., 79 (8): 648-650, 2009.

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Madhavi, A., Surendra Babu, P., Susheela, R. and Ramanjaneyulu, A. Effect of split application of sulphur on yield and use efficiency by soybean in light soil. J. of Prog. Agric., 6 (1): 17-20, 2015.

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Naresha, R., Laxminarayana, P., Devi, B. S., Sailaja, V. Yield and yield attributes of rabi groundnut as influenced by moisture regimes and phosphogypsum levels. The J. Res. ANGRAU., 42 (2): 58-62, 2014.

Pachauri, R. K. and Trivedi, S. K. Effect of sulphur levels on growth, yield and quality of Indian mustard (Brassica juncea) genotypes. Ann. Agric. Res., 33 (3): 131-135, 2012.

Patel, G. M., Patel, B. T., Dodia, I. N., Bhatt, V. K. and Bhatt, R. K. Effect of sources and levels of sulphur on yield, quality and nutrient uptake of mustard (Brassica juncea L.) varieties in loamy sand soil. J. Soils and Crops, 19 (1): 30-35, 2009.

Sah, D., Bohra, J. S. and Srivastava, R. K. Nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur fertilization in relation to yield attributes and yields of Indian mustard (Brassica juncea L. Czern&Coss). Environ. and Ecol., 23 (2): 338-341.

Sarkar, R. K. and Mallick, R. B. Effect of nitrogen, sulphur and foliar spray of nitrate salts on performance of spring sunflower (Helianthus annuus). Ind. J. of Agric. Sci., 79 (12): 986-990, 2009.

Sharma, A. Study the effect of Sulphur and phosphorus with and without PSB inoculation on the yield attributes, yield and nutrient uptake of soybean. J. of Prog. Agric., 2 (2): 41-43, 2011.

Singh, D. N., Bohra, J. S. and Singh, J. K. Influence of NPK, S and variety on growth, yield and quality of irrigated linseed (Linum usitatissimum ).Ind. J. of Agric. Sci .,83 (4): 456-458, 2013.

About Author / Additional Info:
I am a research scholar at Department of Agronomy, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India pursuing Ph. D in Agronomy.