Plant and Soil

, Volume 401, Issue 1–2, pp 39–50 | Cite as

Quantifying total phosphorus accumulation below-ground by canola and lupin plants using 33P-labelling

  • Foyjunnessa
  • Ann McNeill
  • Ashlea Doolette
  • Sean Mason
  • Mike J. McLaughlin
Regular Article


Background and aims

Measures of phosphorus (P) in roots recovered from soil underestimate total P accumulation below-ground by crop species since they do not account for P in unrecovered (e.g., fine) root materials. 33P-labelling of plant root systems may allow more accurate estimation of below-ground P input by plants.


Using a stem wick-feeding technique 33P-labelled phosphoric acid was fed in situ to canola (Brassica napus) and lupin (Lupinus angustifolius) grown in sand or loam soils in sealed pots.


Recovery of 33P was 93 % in the plant-soil system and 7 % was sorbed to the wick. Significantly more 33P was allocated below-ground than to shoots for both species with 59–90 % of 33P measured in recovered roots plus bulk and rhizosphere soil. 33P in recovered roots was higher in canola than lupin regardless of soil type. The proportion of 33P detected in soil was greater for lupin than canola grown in sand and loam (37 and 73 % lupin, 20 and 23 % canola, respectively). Estimated total below-ground P accumulation by both species was at least twice that of recovered root P and was a greater proportion of total plant P for lupin than canola.


Labelling roots using 33P via stem feeding can empower quantitative estimates of total below-ground plant P and root dry matter accumulation which can improve our understanding of P distribution in soil-plant systems.


Root-derived P Total below-ground P Unrecovered root dry weight Shoot P:total root P 



Distilled water


Root-derived phosphorus


Total below-ground phosphorus


Recovered root phosphorus


Root-derived phosphorus in bulk soil


Root-derived phosphorus in rhizosphere soil


Dry weight of unrecovered roots



The senior author thanks the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) for providing top up funding (GRS10026) to support this research and the University of Adelaide for an Australian Postgraduate Scholarship. We also thank CSIRO for use of their radioisotope laboratory facilities and access to a field site for soil collection. This work contributes to outputs in GRDC project UA00119.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Foyjunnessa
    • 1
  • Ann McNeill
    • 1
  • Ashlea Doolette
    • 1
  • Sean Mason
    • 1
  • Mike J. McLaughlin
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Agriculture, Food and WineUniversity of Adelaide and The Waite Research InstituteGlen OsmondAustralia
  2. 2.CSIRO Land and Water Flagship, PMB 2Glen OsmondAustralia

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