Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
  Energy News  




Subscribe free to our newsletters via your




















FARM NEWS
Study finds declining sulfur levels
by Staff Writers
Urbana IL (SPX) May 13, 2016


Power plants burned coal that released sulfur into the atmosphere, but coal use has declined. Today, coal plants use scrubbers to remove sulfur, or burn low-sulfur western coal. This has led to a large decrease in sulfur emissions, and less atmospheric deposition of sulfate to agricultural fields--and consequently, declining sulfate concentrations in rivers. Groundwater can be another source of sulfur in rivers when it comes in contact with underground coal or pyrite seams. In this sample from an Illinois mine, pyrite is visible as gold flecks in the center of the coal. Image courtesy Debra Levey Larson. For a larger version of this image please go here.

Air pollution legislation to control fossil fuel emissions and the associated acid rain has worked - perhaps leading to the need for sulfur fertilizers for crop production. A University of Illinois study drawing from over 20 years of data shows that sulfur levels in Midwest watersheds and rivers have steadily declined, so much so that farmers may need to consider applying sulfur in the not too distant future.

"We don't think there are actual sulfur deficiencies yet, but clearly more sulfur is coming out of the soil and water than what is going in," says U of I biogeochemist Mark David. "As the Clean Air Act and amendments have taken effect there has been a reduction in sulfur emissions from coal combustion, so that the amount of atmospheric sulfur deposited each year is only 25 percent of what it used to be. At some point, farmers are going to have to fertilize with sulfur."

David says farmers whose fields have fine-textured soils that are high in organic matter have less of a concern. "For many, it could be 10 or 20 years from now, but for some, particularly those farming on poorer soils, it'll be sooner. Farmers whose fields have poorer soil or notice a yield reduction may want to have their soil tested for sulfate. If it registers low, they can consider applying fertilizer."

David explains that sulfur in soil comes from two main sources. It's in the air from fossil fuel combustion and in groundwater where water has come in contact with coal or pyrite seams. It comes out of the soil through tile-drained fields and it is taken up into plants as they grow and are then harvested. Most fields in Illinois do not receive fertilizers containing sulfur. Some in the Embarras and Kaskaskia watersheds apply ammonium sulfate, which adds not just nitrogen, but also sulfur.

In their study, David and his team analyzed data from three rivers in east-central Illinois at times when the flow was high and low from the field drainage tiles and the rivers. Sulfate concentrations were greatest in the Salt Fork River, followed by the Embarras, and then the Kaskaskia Rivers.

"As we go from northeast to southwest across this part of Illinois, the sulfate that we think is from groundwater near coal seams, decreases. In the Tuscola and Atwood areas, we don't think there are any groundwater sulfate inputs. When we looked at a whole variety of fields with tile drainage systems, we found that some had very low sulfate concentrations - just a few milligrams per liter.

"One farm in our study had applied bed ash from a power plant. We saw high concentrations of sulfate in that field. There's no doubt that it boosted the level of sulfur. But over the next three or four years most of it had washed out through the tile system," co-author and U of I agronomist Lowell Gentry says.

The long-term nature of the study allowed the team to do watershed balances and look at the inputs and outputs of the sulfur "budget" for the area.

"That balance is negative, with greater outputs from harvest and leaching, than inputs from atmospheric deposition and fertilizers, so what is missing is coming from the soil. There is a lot of sulfur in soil in organic forms and that's being slowly depleted. At some point, there won't be enough to keep up with what the crop needs. That's when farmers will need to add fertilizer," Gentry says.

David began his career in the 1980s studying the effects of acid rain - a main ingredient of which is sulfur. "Back then no one ever thought about fertilizing with sulfur because there was always plenty of atmospheric sulfur available from burning coal."

The samples David collected over the past two decades were primarily used to track nitrates that enter the rivers via drainage tiles in agricultural fields, and eventually reach the Gulf of Mexico. He says that unlike nitrate, "sulfate is not a problem in Midwestern streams and rivers. It's not like other chemicals that cause problems downstream and in the Gulf."

David believes that this is the first study looking at long-term trends in sulfur in agricultural areas.

"Most of the studies about atmospheric deposition in sulfur have been in forested watersheds in the northeast where lakes were acidified, such as in the Adirondack Mountains in New York and in streams in the Appalachian Mountains, areas that were sensitive to acid rain. Sulfate is more of a problem in the northeast in forest soils," he says.

Research paper: "Riverine response of sulfate to declining atmospheric sulfur deposition in agricultural watersheds"

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

.


Related Links
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Farming Today - Suppliers and Technology






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
FARM NEWS
How algae could save plants from themselves
Stanford CA (SPX) May 12, 2016
Algae may hold the key to feeding the world's burgeoning population. Don't worry; no one is going to make you eat them. But because they are more efficient than most plants at taking in carbon dioxide from the air, algae could transform agriculture. If their efficiency could be transferred to crops, we could grow more food in less time using less water and less nitrogen fertilizer. New wor ... read more


FARM NEWS
Now 40, NASA's LAGEOS Set the Bar for Studies of Earth

Underground fungi detected from space

A Cautionary Tale From Planet Earth

Cracking the Code in Satellite Data

FARM NEWS
Satellites 11 and 12 join working Galileo fleet

Operation of 'Indian GPS' will take some more time: ISRO

Air Force awards GPS 3 launch services contract

India gets homegrown satellite navigation system

FARM NEWS
US must step-up forest pest prevention

Californian sudden oak death epidemic 'unstoppable'

Amazon rainforest responds quickly to extreme climate events

Old-growth forests may provide buffer against rising temperatures

FARM NEWS
Berkeley Lab scientists brew jet fuel in 1-pot recipe

UNT researchers discover potential new paths for plant-based bioproducts

Improving utilization of ammonia and carbon dioxide in microalgal cultivation

Airbus Defence and Space signs contract to build Biomass

FARM NEWS
Trina Solar Awarded a Silver Rating in EcoVadis CSR Survey

11bn Pound investment in UK solar driving increase in M and A activity

Taiwanese government should provide more support for solar panel industry

SolarReserve and Shenhua plan 1,000MW of Solar Projects in China

FARM NEWS
DNV GL-led project gives green light for wind-powered oil recovery

Report: U.S. wind energy sector booming

El Hierro, the Spanish island vying for 100% clean energy

USGS finds cranes isolated from wind farms

FARM NEWS
Protesters block Australian coal port

Activists dump coal ahead of climate deal signing

Sweden's Vattenfall to sell German coal business

Coal leader Peabody files for bankruptcy

FARM NEWS
'Flesh banquets' of China's Cultural Revolution remain unspoken, 50 years on

China court jails pro-democracy activists: lawyer

China sends more anti-graft inspectors into military

China slams UN criticism of controls on foreign NGOs




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News








The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement