Transformations, transport, and potential unintended consequences of high sulfur inputs to Napa Valley vineyards


Unintended anthropogenic deposition of sulfur (S) to forest ecosystems has a range of negative consequences, identified through decades of research. There has been far less study of purposeful S use in agricultural systems around the world, including the application of elemental sulfur (S0) as a quick-reacting fungicide to prevent damage to crops. Here we report results from a three-year study of the transformations and flows of applied S0 in soils, vegetation, and hydrologic export pathways of Napa Valley, CA vineyards, documenting that all applied S is lost from the vineyard ecosystem on an annual basis. We found that S0 oxidizes rapidly to sulfate () on the soil surface where it then accumulates over the course of the growing season. Leaf and grape tissues accounted for only 7–13% of applied S whereas dormant season cover crops accounted for 4–10% of applications. Soil S inventories were largely and ester-bonded sulfates; they decreased from 1,623 ± 354 kg ha-1 during the dry growing season to 981 ± 526 kg ha-1 (0–0.5 m) during the dormant wet season. Nearly all S applied to the vineyard soils is transported offsite in dissolved oxidized forms during dormant season rainstorms. Thus, the residence time of reactive S is brief in these systems, and largely driven by hydrology. Our results provide new insight into how S use in vineyards constitutes a substantial perturbation of the S cycle in Northern California winegrowing regions and points to the unintended consequences that agricultural S use may have at larger scales

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This paper was published in PubMed Central.

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