Marschner Review

Plant and Soil

, Volume 348, Issue 1, pp 29-61

First online:

Acquisition of phosphorus and other poorly mobile nutrients by roots. Where do plant nutrition models fail?

  • Philippe HinsingerAffiliated withINRA, UMR Eco&Sols Email author 
  • , Alain BraumanAffiliated withIRD, UMR Eco&Sols
  • , Nicolas DevauAffiliated withINRA, UMR Eco&Sols
  • , Frédéric GérardAffiliated withINRA, UMR Eco&Sols
  • , Christophe JourdanAffiliated withCIRAD, UMR Eco&Sols
  • , Jean-Paul LaclauAffiliated withCIRAD, UMR Eco&Sols
  • , Edith Le CadreAffiliated withMontpellier SupAgro, UMR Eco&Sols
  • , Benoît JaillardAffiliated withINRA, UMR Eco&Sols
  • , Claude PlassardAffiliated withINRA, UMR Eco&Sols

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In the context of increasing global food demand, ecological intensification of agroecosystems is required to increase nutrient use efficiency in plants while decreasing fertilizer inputs. Better exploration and exploitation of soil resources is a major issue for phosphorus, given that rock phosphate ores are finite resources, which are going to be exhausted in decades from now on.


We review the processes governing the acquisition by plants of poorly mobile nutrients in soils, with a particular focus on processes at the root–soil interface. Rhizosphere processes are poorly accounted for in most plant nutrition models. This lack largely explains why present-day models fail at predicting the actual uptake of poorly mobile nutrients such as phosphorus under low input conditions. A first section is dedicated to biophysical processes and the spatial/temporal development of the rhizosphere. A second section concentrates on biochemical/biogeochemical processes, while a third section addresses biological/ecological processes operating in the rhizosphere.


New routes for improving soil nutrient efficiency are addressed, with a particular focus on breeding and ecological engineering options. Better mimicking natural ecosystems and exploiting plant diversity appears as an appealing way forward, on this long and winding road towards ecological intensification of agroecosystems.


Ecological intensification Microorganism Modelling Phosphorus, potassium Rhizosphere Facilitation