, Volume 87, Issue 3, pp 369-382,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

P-equilibrium fertilization in an intensive dairy farming system: effects on soil-P status, crop yield and P leaching


In the coming decade, European dairy farms are obliged to realize a balance between phosphor (P) inputs to their farmland (in inorganic fertilizers and manure) and outputs (in crop products), the so-called P-equilibrium fertilization. The objective of the present study is to analyze the long-term effects of P-equilibrium fertilization on soil-P status (total soil-P and available soil-P), crop yield and P leaching on dry sandy soil, using data from experimental dairy farm ‘De Marke’, where P-equilibrium fertilization has been applied since 1989. For grassland, P availability is expressed in P-Al and for arable land in Pw. Total and available P status were monitored in the upper topsoil (layer 0–0.2 m). Total soil-P was also monitored in the lower topsoil (layer 0.2–0.4 m) and in the subsoil (0.4–0.6 m). From 1989 to 2006, Pw and P-Al (means of all farmland) decreased by 26 and 25%, respectively. In the same period, mean total-P content of the farmland decreased by 16%. There was a large variation in initial P status (1989) of the various plots. The rate of decline in all soil-P indicators was positively correlated to their initial values. In plots with the lowest initial values, P status did not change, while in plots with high initial values it tended to stabilize at lower levels. At equilibrium-P fertilization, Pw is estimated to stabilize at 20. This is lower than the recommended P status of Dutch soils used for maize cropping. P-Al is estimated to stabilize at 30–40, which corresponds to the current recommendations for grassland. The data show that at P-equilibrium fertilization, soil available-P status is higher in a maize-ley rotation than in permanent grassland. The decline in total P and available P did not affect crop yield, nor did it affect the P concentration in groundwater, but at ‘De Marke’, P emission to groundwater is generally low. The results obtained suggest that P-equilibrium fertilization can be compatible with efficient crop production.