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Title: It Is Time to Develop Sustainable Management of Agricultural Sulfur

Globally, sulfur (S) applications to croplands result in S inputs that often exceed historical atmospheric deposition. Sulfur is applied to crops as a fertilizer, fungicide, soil conditioner, pH regulator, and carrier for other elements. However, excess S in soils and aquatic ecosystems can have detrimental ecological and biogeochemical consequences, including soil base cation depletion, surface water acidification, hydrogen sulfide toxicity, and increased production of methyl mercury. The dichotomy between S benefits to crops and environmental consequences parallels that of nitrogen and phosphorus; however, there has not yet been a focus on developing sustainable S management plans in agriculture. We review the current literature on S cycling in agricultural systems and propose solutions that reduce S inputs, losses, and ecological consequences, including field applications of organic matter, adaptation of precision agriculture, and implementation of total maximum daily loads. We suggest opportunities for technological innovation, including analysis of remote sensing imagery to identify location and timing of S deficiencies and stresses, crop genetic modification to reduce S requirements, inoculation of plants with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to enhance plant S acquisition, and remediation of wetlands and other anoxic environments with high S loads. We conclude with areas for continued research on S biogeochemistry.

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DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
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Journal Name:
Earth's Future
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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