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Sulphur uptake, yield responses and the interactions between nitrogen and sulphur in winter oilseed rape (Brassica napus)

  • S. P. McGrath (a1) and F. J. Zhao (a1)

Field experiments were conducted to test the seed yield responses of winter oilseed rape (Brassica napus L., cvs Libravo or Falcon) to the addition of different rates of S fertilizer, at three N application rates, on a sandy loam at Woburn, Bedfordshire, in 1990/91, 1991/92 and 1993/94. Large increases in seed yields, ranging from 0·7 to 1·6 t/ha, or 42–267% on a relative scale, were obtained in response to the application of 40 kg S/ha with 180 and 230 kg N/ha treatments. The effects of S were highly significant in 1991/92 (P < 0·01) and 1993/94 (P < 0·001) and close to significant (P = 0·053) in 1990/91. The yield benefits were obtained mainly from the application of the first 10 kg S/ha and further yield increases were unlikely above 40 kg S/ha. Increasing N application from 180 to 230 kg/ha decreased seed yield in 1990/91 and 1993/94, when no S was applied. In contrast, seed yield was not increased by S at zero or low (50 or 100 kg/ha) N rates. The interactions between N and S on seed yield were significant (P < 0·05) in 1990/91 but not in the other two seasons. Application of S also increased seed oil content in 1993/94, when the degree of S deficiency was particularly severe. With an application of 230 kg N/ha, the crops took up 5–22 kg S/ha at maturity when no S was applied and 26–51 kg S/ha when 40 kg S/ha was applied. The utilization efficiency of the fertilizer S ranged from 50 to 73% in the three seasons. Although the concentrations of total N in plants were largely unaffected by S treatments, large amounts of NO3-N accumulated in the leaves of S-deficient plants in 1993/94. This indicates that N metabolism was disrupted by S deficiency. The concentrations of S and the N: S ratios in different tissues and the whole plant changed considerably with time. The concentration of S in leaves at early flowering was found to be the best index in predicting S deficiency in terms of seed yield, and a critical value of 3·8 mg/g was obtained. In comparison, the N: S ratio in leaves at early flowering was a much poorer predictor of S deficiency.

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H. H. Janzen & J. R. Bettany (1984 a). Sulfur nutrition of rapeseed: I. Influence of fertilizer nitrogen and sulfur rates. Soil Science Society of America Journal 48, 100107.

H. H. Janzen & J. R. Bettany (1984 b). Sulfur nutrition of rapeseed: II. Effect of time of sulfur application. Soil Science Society of America Journal 48, 107112.

D. G. Maynard , J. W. B. Stewart & J. R. Bettany (1983). Use of plant analysis to predict sulphur deficiency in rapeseed (Brassica napus and B. campestris). Canadian Journal of Soil Science 63, 387396.

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F. Zhao & S. P. McGrath (1994). Comparison of sulphur uptake by oilseed rape and the soil sulphur status of two adjacent fields with different soil series. Soil Use and Management 10, 4750.

F. J. Zhao , E. J. Evans , P. E. Bilsborrow & J. K. Syers (1993 a). Sulphur uptake and distribution in double and single low varieties of oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.). Plant and Soil 150, 6976.

F. J. Zhao , E. J. Evans , P. E. Bilsborrow & J. K. Syers (1993 b). Influence of sulphur and nitrogen on seed yield and quality of low glucosinolate oilseed rape (Brassica napus L). Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 63, 2937.

F. J. Zhao , P. E. Bilsborrow , E. J. Evans & J. K. Syers (1993 c). Sulphur turnover in the developing pods of single and double low varieties of oilseed rape (Brassica napus L). Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 62, 111119.

F. Zhao , S. P. McGrath & A. R. Crosland (1994). Comparison of three wet digestion methods for the determination of plant sulphur by inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES). Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis 25, 407418.

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The Journal of Agricultural Science
  • ISSN: 0021-8596
  • EISSN: 1469-5146
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-agricultural-science
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