Ammonium Sulfate - International Plant Nutrition Institute

Ammonium Sulfate - International Plant Nutrition Institute
Ammonium Sulfate
No. 12
Ammonium sulfate [(NH4)2 SO4] was one of the first and most widely used nitrogen (N) fertilizers for crop production. It
is now less commonly used, but especially valuable where both N and sulfur (S) are required. Its high solubility provides
versatility for a number of agricultural applications.
Ammonium sulfate (sometimes abbreviated as AS or AMS) has been produced for over
150 years. Initially, it was made from ammonia released during manufacturing coal gas
(used to illuminate cities) or from coal coke used to produce steel. It is made from a reaction of sulfuric acid and heated ammonia. The size of the resulting crystals is determined
by controlling the reaction conditions. When the desired size is achieved, the crystals are
dried and screened to specific particle sizes. Some materials are coated with a conditioner
(NH4)2 SO4 crystals
to reduce dust and caking.
Most of the current demand for ammonium sulfate is met by production from by-products of various industries. For example,
ammonium sulfate is a co-product in the manufacturing process of nylon. Certain by-products that contain ammonia or spent
sulfuric acid are commonly converted to ammonium sulfate for use in agriculture. Although the color can range from white to
beige, it is consistently sold as a highly soluble crystal that has excellent storage properties. The particle size can vary depending
on its intended purpose.
Agricultural Use
Chemical Properties
Chemical formula: (NH4)2SO4
Ammonium sulfate is used primarily where there is a need for supplemental
N content:
N and S to meet the nutritional requirement of growing plants. Since it contains only 21% N, there are other fertilizer sources that are more concentrated
S content:
and economical to handle and transport. However, it provides an excellent
Water solubility
750 g/L
source of S which has numerous essential functions in plants, including proSolution pH
5 to 6
tein synthesis.
Because the N fraction is present in the ammonium form, ammonium sulfate is frequently used in flooded soils for rice production, where nitrate-based fertilizers are a poor choice due to denitrification losses.
A solution containing dissolved ammonium sulfate is often added to post-emergence herbicide sprays to improve their effectiveness at weed control. This practice of increasing herbicide efficacy with ammonium sulfate is particularly effective when the
water supply contains significant concentrations of calcium, magnesium, or sodium. A high-purity grade of ammonium sulfate is
often used for this purpose to avoid plugging spray nozzles.
Management Practices
After addition to soil, the ammonium sulfate rapidly dissolves into its ammonium and sulfate components. If it remains on the
soil surface, the ammonium may be susceptible to gaseous loss in alkaline conditions. In these situations, incorporation of the
material into the soil as soon as possible...or application before an irrigation event or a predicted advisable.
Most plants are able to utilize both ammonium and nitrate forms of N for growth. In warm soils, microbes will rapidly begin to
convert ammonium to nitrate in the process of nitrification [2 NH4+ + 3O2g2NO3- + 2H2O + 4H+]. During this microbial reaction,
acidity [H+] is released, which will ultimately decrease soil pH after repeated use. Ammonium sulfate has an acidifying effect on
soil due to the nitrification process…not from the presence of sulfate, which has a negligible effect on pH. The acid-producing
potential of ammonium sulfate is greater than the same N application from ammonium nitrate, for example, since all the N in
ammonium sulfate will be converted to nitrate, while only half of the N from ammonium nitrate will be converted to nitrate.
Non Agricultural Uses
Ammonium sulfate is commonly added to bread products as a dough conditioner. It is also a component in fire extinguisher powder and flame-proofing agents. It is used for many applications in the chemical, wood pulp, textile, and pharmaceutical industries.
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Nutrient Source Specifics is a series of brief, condensed fact sheets highlighting common fertilizers and nutrient sources in modern agriculture. These
topics are written by scientific staff of the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) for educational use. Mention of a fertilizer source or product name
does not imply endorsement or recommendation. This series is available as PDF files at this URL: ><
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