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In the explanation of the sulfur cycle, it is often said that sulfur moves from the atmosphere to the ground by acid rain in the form of sulfuric acid. Can plants directly use sulfuric acid to assimilate sulfur?

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Plants have sulfate transporters which they use to assimilate sulfur. Since sulfate is the conjugate base of sulfuric acid, this could be construed as a "yes" for your question. Sulfuric acid would be present in its conjugate base form at physiological pH values.

However, it would be unwise to water your plants with sulfuric acid, as many plants have an optimal pH range which will quickly cause death when sulfuric acid lowers the pH of the soil below that range. As a result, areas afflicted by acid rain may require treatment with alkaline limestone to resolve this issue.

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  • $\begingroup$ Not just the pH. Sulphuric acid is also a strong dehydrant $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Dec 14 '14 at 8:56
  • $\begingroup$ I would presume that since the question is talking about acid rain, we don't mean concentrated sulfuric acid. $\endgroup$ – March Ho Dec 14 '14 at 9:00
  • $\begingroup$ Yes.. Didn't notice that.. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Dec 14 '14 at 9:05

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