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Development and evaluation of an improved soil test for phosphorus: 1. The influence of phosphorus fertilizer solubility and soil properties on the extractability of soil P


The objective of this work was to develop and evaluate a soil test suitable for estimating the phosphorus status of soils whether they were fertilized with soluble or sparingly soluble P fertilizers or both. Four New Zealand soils of contrasting P sorption capacity and exchangeable Ca content were incubated alone or with monocalcium phosphate (MCP), reactive North Carolina (NC) phosphate rock or unreactive Florida (FRD) rock, at 240 mg P kg−1 soil, to allow the P sources of different solubilities to react with each soil and provide soil samples containing different amounts of extractable P, Ca and residual phosphate rock. The phosphorus in the incubated soils was fractionated into alkali soluble and acid soluble P fractions using a sequential extraction procedure to assess the extent of phosphate rock dissolution. Eight soil P tests [three moderately alkaline — Olsen (0.5M NaHCO3) modified Olsen (pretreatment with 1M NaCl) and Colwell; three acid tests — Bray 1, modified Bray 1 and Truog; and two resin tests — bicarbonate anion exchange resin (AER) and combined AER plus sodium cation exchange resin (CER)] were assessed in their ability to extract P from the incubated soils.

The 0.5M NaHCO3 based alkaline tests could not differentiate between the Control and FRD treatments in any soil nor between the Control, NC and FRD treatments in the high P sorption soils. The acid extractants appeared to be affected by the P sorption capacity of the soil probably because of reabsorption of dissolved P in the acid medium. The AER test gave results similar to Olsen. Only the combined AER + CER test extracted P in amounts related to the solubility of the P sources incubated with each soil. Furthermore, when soil samples were “spiked” with FRD and NC and extracted immediately, the P extracted by the AER + CER test, over and above the control soils, increased with the amount and chemical reactivity of the rocks. There was no extraction of rock P by any of the alkaline extractions.

Increases in the amounts of P extracted (ΔP) by each soil test from the fertilized soils, over and above the control soils were compared with the amounts ofP dissolved from the fertilizers during incubation (measured by P fractionation). Soil P sorption capacity had least influence on the amounts of P extracted by the AER + CER and Colwell tests. However, the Colwell test was unable to differentiate between all P sources in all four soils and suffered from the disadvantage of producing coloured extracts. The AER + CER test appeared to have the potential to assess the available P status of soils better than the other tests used because of its ability to extract a representative portion of residual PR (in accordance with the amount and reactivity) and dissolved P, and thus to differentiate between fertilizer treatments in all four soils.

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Saggar, S., Hedley, M.J. & White, R.E. Development and evaluation of an improved soil test for phosphorus: 1. The influence of phosphorus fertilizer solubility and soil properties on the extractability of soil P. Fertilizer Research 33, 81–91 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01058012

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Key words

  • Anion exchange resin
  • Bray 1
  • cation exchange resin
  • Colwell
  • exchangeable Ca
  • P dissolution
  • P fractionation
  • P sorption capacity
  • P tests
  • Phosphate rocks
  • Olsen
  • Truog