Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 59, Issue 3, pp 269–284

Processes controlling soil phosphorus release to runoff and implications for agricultural management


  • R.W. McDowell
    • Department of GeographyUniversity of Cambridge
    • Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research UnitUSDA-ARS
    • Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research UnitUSDA-ARS
  • L.M. Condron
    • Soil, Plant & Ecological Sciences DivisionLincoln University
  • P.M. Haygarth
    • Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, North Wyke
  • P.C. Brookes
    • IACR-Rothamsted

DOI: 10.1023/A:1014419206761

Cite this article as:
McDowell, R., Sharpley, A., Condron, L. et al. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems (2001) 59: 269. doi:10.1023/A:1014419206761


Phosphorus (P) loss from agricultural land to surface waters is well known as an environmental issue because of the role of P in freshwater eutrophication. Much research has been conducted on the erosion and loss of P in sediments and surface runoff. Recently, P loss in sub-surface runoff via agricultural drainage has been identified as environmentally significant. High soil P levels are considered as a potential source of P loss. However, without favourable hydrological conditions P will not move. In this paper, we review the basis of soil P release into solution and transport in surface and sub-surface runoff. Our objectives are to outline the role of soil P and hydrology in P movement and management practices that can minimize P loss to surface waters. Remedial strategies to reduce the risk of P loss in the short-term are discussed, although it is acknowledged that long-term solutions must focus on achieving a balance between P inputs in fertilizers and feed and P outputs in production systems.

agricultural managementagricultural runoffanimal manureseutrophicationphosphorussubsurface flowsurface runoff

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001