Agriculture (Jul 2021)

Revisiting Sulphur—The Once Neglected Nutrient: It’s Roles in Plant Growth, Metabolism, Stress Tolerance and Crop Production

  • Tinashe Zenda,
  • Songtao Liu,
  • Anyi Dong,
  • Huijun Duan

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11, no. 7
p. 626


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Sulphur plays crucial roles in plant growth and development, with its functions ranging from being a structural constituent of macro-biomolecules to modulating several physiological processes and tolerance to abiotic stresses. In spite of these numerous sulphur roles being well acknowledged, agriculture has paid scant regard for sulphur nutrition, until only recently. Serious problems related to soil sulphur deficiencies have emerged and the intensification of food, fiber, and animal production is escalating to feed the ever-increasing human population. In the wake of huge demand for high quality cereal and vegetable diets, sulphur can play a key role in augmenting the production, productivity, and quality of crops. Additionally, in light of the emerging problems of soil fertility exhaustion and climate change-exacerbated environmental stresses, sulphur assumes special importance in crop production, particularly under intensively cropped areas. Here, citing several relevant examples, we highlight, in addition to its plant biological and metabolism functions, how sulphur can significantly enhance crop productivity and quality, as well as acclimation to abiotic stresses. By this appraisal, we also aim to stimulate readers interests in crop sulphur research by providing priorities for future pursuance, including bettering our understanding of the molecular processes and dynamics of sulphur availability and utilization in plants, dissecting the role of soil rhizospherical microbes in plant sulphur transformations, enhancing plant phenotyping and diagnosis for nutrient deficiencies, and matching site-specific crop sulphur demands with fertilizer amendments in order to reduce nutrient use inefficiencies in both crop and livestock production systems. This will facilitate the proper utilization of sulphur in crop production and eventually enhance sustainable and environmentally friend food production.