Updated: Jul 15, 2021
Sulfur burners are a solution to one of irrigation’s largest problems. In this post we discuss what sulfur burners are, why we need them and how to use one.
What are Sulfur Burners?
Sulfur burners are a new piece of technology to our area that we are excited to work with. We have about 8 units out in use right now and are really starting to see some benefits of how this technology can be applied in the corn and soybean irrigation market, specifically for growers that are looking to optimize their water use efficiency and get the maximum amount of nutrients through their irrigation water and make them available to the plant.
Why Have a Sulfur Burner?
One of the basic things we need to understand in irrigation is that not all water is created equal. Water has bicarbonates in it; think of bicarbonates as glue. As you apply irrigation water season after season, day after day, you are applying water that has bicarbonates mixed in; those bicarbonates act as glue and bind soil particles together and bind up nutrients. This is showing up in a lot of places where they have been irrigating for 20 or 30 years. Growers are seeing higher yields outside of their pivot or drip irrigation system than they are inside their irrigated ground. They are reporting that the water is not moving correctly; the soil looks compacted, and all kinds of other symptoms show up as those bicarbonate levels build and accumulate over time.
We are using sulfur burners to chemically change the properties of the soil to release those bicarbonates and make those nutrients available again. The sulfur burners we have been using are by AguaDulce (Sweetwater Sulfur Burner). There is a bin that holds dry sulfur prills, and beside that there is a burn chamber to burn the sulfur. On the other side of the unit, there is a venturi that inducts the sulfurous gas off of the fire into the water, and chemically it releases bicarbonate through the exhaust and changes the pH of the water. There are a lot of benefits to using a sulfur burner, but the main one we are looking at right now is the ability to lower pH; not only of your water, but also your soil. If you are in a high pH environment, this is going to release nutrients.