Sulfur fertilization in soybean: A meta-analysis on yield and seed composition

André Fróes de Borja Reis, Luiz H.Moro Rosso, Dan Davidson, Péter Kovács, Larry C. Purcell, Frederick E. Below, Shaun N. Casteel, Carrie Knott, Hans Kandel, Seth L. Naeve, Walter Carciochi, Willian J. Ross, Vitor Rampazzo Favoretto, Sotirios Archontoulis, Ignacio A. Ciampitti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sulfur (S) deficiency has been recently reported in soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] producing regions across the United States. However, field studies have often failed to demonstrate a strong relationship between yield and S fertilization and generally attributing the lack of yield response to unfavorable weather and high soil S supply. In addition, only a few reports described seed composition changes due to S availability under contrasting field conditions. Therefore, our goals were (i) to implement a meta-analytic model to quantify the effect of S application at different growth stages on yield and seed concentration of protein, oil, essential non-S amino acids, and S amino acids (SAA, cysteine and methionine); ii) identify environmental factors underpinning the response of S to these plant traits. Field experiments were carried out from 2017 to 2019 growing seasons with a total of 44 unique site-years conditions across 18 locations in 8 states. Mineral S fertilizer (sulfate/ elemental S) was supplied depending on the study at sowing, vegetative and/or reproductive stages. A random-effects multilevel meta-analysis was conducted. The effect sizes compared yield and seed composition responses relative to the unfertilized control. A principal component analysis (PCA) separated distinctive environmental conditions and a sub-grouped meta-analysis with the main environmental factors was later executed to understand the response of the plant traits with those factors. Seed protein concentration increased by 0.3 % when S was applied at sowing. The concentration of SAA increased by ca. 1% regardless of the fertilization timing. Sites exposed to drought stress (18–29% reduction of potential transpiration) neither presented changes in yield nor seed composition due to S fertilization. Soils with organic matter between 25 and 32 g kg-1 (medium cluster) displayed significant responses to S application. This research brings extensive data and provides a comprehensive analysis of weather and soil attributes influencing soybean yield and seed composition responses to S availability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number126285
JournalEuropean Journal of Agronomy
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Cysteine
  • Methionine
  • Protein concentration
  • Seed nutritional quality
  • Sulfur amino acids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science


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