Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 45, Issue 6, pp 635–643 | Cite as

Effects of soil drying and rate of re-wetting on concentrations and forms of phosphorus in leachate

  • M. S. A. BlackwellEmail author
  • P. C. Brookes
  • N. de la Fuente-Martinez
  • P. J. Murray
  • K. E. Snars
  • J. K. Williams
  • P. M. Haygarth
Original Paper


The drying and re-wetting of soils can result in the modification of the amounts and forms of nutrients which can transfer, via leachate, from the soil to surface waters. We tested, under laboratory conditions, the hypothesis that the rate of re-wetting of a dried soil affects the solubilisation and concentrations of different forms of phosphorus (P) in leachate. A portion of grassland pelostagnogley soil (sieved moist <2 mm) was dried at 35°C and another portion maintained at approximately 40% water-holding capacity. Water (25 ml) was added at ten regularly spaced time intervals in 2.5-ml aliquots to the surfaces of both soils over periods of 0, 2, 4, 24 and 48 h, resulting in different rates of application. The leachate was collected and analysed for dissolved (<0.45 μm) and particulate total P and molybdate reactive and unreactive P. The rate of re-wetting significantly changed the concentrations of P, especially dissolved forms, in the leachate. Dissolved P concentrations were highest in leachate from the 2-h treatment, while particulate P concentrations were highest in the 0-h treatment leachate. In all cases, most P was unreactive and, therefore, likely to be in an organic form. Soil drying decreased microbial biomass, but this could not be directly linked to an increase of P in leachate. These results suggest that changes in patterns of rainfall frequency and intensity predicted by climate change scenarios could significantly affect the quantities of P leached from soils.


Drying–re-wetting Phosphorus Leachate Soil microbial biomass 



The authors thank Dan Dhanoa for assistance with statistical analyses and Tim Bearder for assistance in the laboratory. This work was funded by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) grant BB/C504919/1. North Wyke Research and Rothamsted Research receive grant-aided support from the BBSRC.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. S. A. Blackwell
    • 1
    Email author
  • P. C. Brookes
    • 2
  • N. de la Fuente-Martinez
    • 1
  • P. J. Murray
    • 1
  • K. E. Snars
    • 2
  • J. K. Williams
    • 1
  • P. M. Haygarth
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.North Wyke ResearchOkehamptonUK
  2. 2.Rothamsted ResearchHarpendenUK
  3. 3.Centre for Sustainable Water Management, Lancaster Environment CentreLancaster UniversityLancasterUK

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