Management of nitrogen and sulphur fertiliser for improved bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) quality

Ruiter, J.M. de; Martin, R.J.

New Zealand Journal of Crop and Horticultural Science 29(4): 287-299


ISSN/ISBN: 0114-0671
DOI: 10.1080/01140671.2001.9514190
Accession: 003839487

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A change from the use of fertilizers containing sulfur (S) to predominantly urea for supply of nitrogen (N) to wheat (T. aestivum) crops, and the generally low S status of New Zealand soils has coincided with a decline in the quality of wheat flour. Increased farinograph dough work input (WI) and increased extensigraph resistance emerged with current crop management practices. The dynamics of N and S uptake were studied in a factorial experiment with four commercial wheat cultivars known to differ in yield potential, grain N content, and dough rheological properties. Treatments consisted of three N fertilizer rates (nil, early application of 150 kg N/ha in three splits, and 150 early + 100 kg N/ha applied at anthesis) and two S levels (nil and 50 kg S/ha at emergence). N fertilizer strongly increased N uptake in vegetative parts and grain. In contrast, there was little effect of S fertilizer on grain yield or grain N and S concentration or uptake. However, S fertilizer treatment did raise the level of S uptake in vegetative plant material. S treatment reduced the N : S ratio. However, N treatment consistently had a greater influence than S fertilizer on mixing requirement (WI and water absorption) and extensigraph tests. Opportunities to manage S nutrition during crop growth in order to influence dough or baking characteristics existed only under high N management. In this situation, there was a significant reduction in WI following S fertilizer application. Cultivar choice was the single best option for achieving the required flour characteristics. Flour from wheat cultivars 'Monad' and 'Otane' had strong dough rheological properties suggesting they were well suited to breadmaking. WI was higher in 'Monad' than 'Otane' even though grain S concentrations were lower. The differences in WI could partially be explained by their grain N : S composition. This was, in turn, influenced by the level of soil mineral N and sulfate.