, Volume 237, Issue 2, pp 173-195

Bioavailability of soil inorganic P in the rhizosphere as affected by root-induced chemical changes: a review

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Abstract

In most soils, inorganic phosphorus occurs at fairly low concentrations in the soil solution whilst a large proportion of it is more or less strongly held by diverse soil minerals. Phosphate ions can indeed be adsorbed onto positively charged minerals such as Fe and Al oxides. Phosphate (P) ions can also form a range of minerals in combination with metals such as Ca, Fe and Al. These adsorption/desorption and precipitation/dissolution equilibria control the concentration of P in the soil solution and, thereby, both its chemical mobility and bioavailability. Apart from the concentration of P ions, the major factors that determine those equilibria as well as the speciation of soil P are (i) the pH, (ii) the concentrations of anions that compete with P ions for ligand exchange reactions and (iii) the concentrations of metals (Ca, Fe and Al) that can coprecipitate with P ions. The chemical conditions of the rhizosphere are known to considerably differ from those of the bulk soil, as a consequence of a range of processes that are induced either directly by the activity of plant roots or by the activity of rhizosphere microflora. The aim of this paper is to give an overview of those chemical processes that are directly induced by plant roots and which can affect the concentration of P in the soil solution and, ultimately, the bioavailability of soil inorganic P to plants. Amongst these, the uptake activity of plant roots should be taken into account in the first place. A second group of activities which is of major concern with respect to P bioavailability are those processes that can affect soil pH, such as proton/bicarbonate release (anion/cation balance) and gaseous (O2/CO2) exchanges. Thirdly, the release of root exudates such as organic ligands is another activity of the root that can alter the concentration of P in the soil solution. These various processes and their relative contributions to the changes in the bioavailability of soil inorganic P that can occur in the rhizosphere can considerably vary with (i) plant species, (ii) plant nutritional status and (iii) ambient soil conditions, as will be stressed in this paper. Their possible implications for the understanding and management of P nutrition of plants will be briefly addressed and discussed.