Thinking about fertilizer use for yield may not be enough. Now farmers growing wheat destined for human consumption are being encouraged to realise how their choice and use of fertilizer affects the product derived from the grain they grow, particularly the flour destined for making bread.
For a generation, sulphur deposits from the atmosphere, from industrial pollution, have been decreasing. This began in Europe and now that clean air policies are being in put in place elsewhere in the world, soil sulphur levels are in many fields are in decline. As a result correct fertilizer application - with a sulphur containing fertilizer such as Polysulphate - has never been more important.
Quality - not just yield - must be the focus
It seems the full impact on the crop of having the right levels of sulphur at the right time is becoming evident. In the UK, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Cereals & Oilseeds trials have shown that correct sulphur fertilization minimises formation of acrylamide, a processing contaminant, in wheat baked products.
Acrylamide can form during high-temperature cooking and processing of wheat. According to AHDB if wheat is grown under conditions of sulphur deficiency or if the N:S ratio in grain exceeds 16:1, then acrylamide is likely to form and bread-making quality can be reduced.
Farming for the food chain
Processors have modified their methods to minimise the formation of acrylamide during preparation for bread-making. But while there’s a solution in fields, growers can continue to expect to be encouraged to minimise acrylamide formation by applying sulphur. The use of a sulphur balanced fertilizer such as Polysulphate – applied when deficiency is likely during the wheat plant’s growth will achieve this.
Getting sulphur levels back on track
Knowing why soil sulphur levels are important is one step, knowing precisely how to get them where they need to be is the next step. The UK’s AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds team put together recommendations for oilseed rape, wheat and barley to get soil sulphur levels back on track.
This kind of detailed, practical guidance is to be welcomed. From fertilizer to field, from farm productivity to factory, and then to food for us all to eat and enjoy this shows how in the supply chain, we - and everything we do - is connected.