By Connor Lynch
Acid rain is not commonly thought of as a good thing, but it has a hidden upside: It’s an excellent source of sulphur for crops.
Canadian efforts, particularly in Eastern Canada to reduce the amount of acid rain have been highly successful, to the unexpected detriment of Ontario crops.
Sulphur is an essential plant nutrient and in Southwestern Ontario there is less of it in the air.
Real Agriculture agronomist Peter Johnson estimates that Southwestern Ontario farmers apply sulphur to 20 per cent of alfalfa fields. He estimates that farmers are adding sulphur to 75 per cent of Western Ontario’s wheat and almost 100 per cent of the canola.
Ontario farmers used to have a free supply of sulphur from local smelting plants and coal-fired generators, not to mention clouds of acid rain being borne up from the U.S. But since a joint agreement was signed between Canada and the U.S. in 1980, the amount of sulphur has been cut by 58 per cent.
“We’ve certainly seen situations where we’ve seen a 25 per cent yield increase in alfalfa (with sulphur application),” said Johnson.