Testing soil phosphorus in a depleting P scenario: an accelerated soil mining experiment

S. Nawara, T. van Dael, E. De Cooman, A. Elsen, R. Merckx, E. Smolders, F. Amery

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    The reduced use of phosphorus (P) fertilizer in fertile soil has reverted the P balance to negative in some regions. It is unclear how long current soil P stocks will ensure adequate P supply to crops. In addition, it is unknown if current soil tests for available P describe bioavailable P adequately in soil where P is becoming depleted. We set up an accelerated soil P mining test to address these questions. Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne, Melpetra tetra) was grown for 2years in a greenhouse on 5-cm-deep soil layers of eight contrasting soils with periodic grass clipping. Each soil was split into four fertilizer treatments (i.e. no P (-P) and adequate P (+P)) and two nitrogen levels, the latter to alter the rate of P uptake. The long-term P mining induced P-related yield losses in seven of the 16 soil treatments. The cumulative uptake of shoot P at which yield loss started to exceed 10% (-P versus +P) varied over a small range of 37-74mg Pkg(-1) soil among the soils. This critical cumulative P uptake (CCP) was related to the soil P content prior to mining measured by five soil P tests (ammonium oxalate, ammonium lactate (AL), Olsen P, 0.01m CaCl2 and the diffusive gradient in thin film technique (DGT)); the largest R-2 values were observed for P-AL (R-2=0.72) and P-DGT (R-2=0.73). However, none of the tests was diagnostic for yield loss during the depletion period. Increased N supply accelerated growth and rates of P uptake and decreased the CCP by a factor of 1.7 on average, illustrating the effect of the rate of biomass production. The CCP values obtained in the treatment with reduced N fertilizer application are likely to be the most relevant for the field and suggest that current stocks allow adequate P supply for arable crops for 3-8years under zero P application (0-23cm) in soils similar to those tested. The lack of a successful diagnosis for P deficiency during this depletion experiment calls for further calibration of soil tests for available P in the field.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalEuropean Journal of Soil Science
    Volume69
    Issue number5
    Pages (from-to)804-815
    ISSN1351-0754
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Sep-2018

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