Plant and Soil

, Volume 396, Issue 1–2, pp 297–309 | Cite as

Phosphorus and nitrogen fertiliser use efficiency of wheat seedlings grown in soils from contrasting tillage systems.

  • R. D. Armstrong
  • K. Dunsford
  • M. J. McLaughlin
  • T. McBeath
  • S. Mason
  • V. M. Dunbabin
Regular Article



This paper assessed the effect that the vertical stratification of nutrients in conservation cropping systems of Australia has on phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) fertiliser use efficiency.


Intact soil cores from two long-term tillage experiments, located on a Vertosol and on a Calcarosol were used to assess if tillage system (zero tillage - ZT vs conventional tillage - CT) and soil water influence fertiliser use efficiency (using 33P and 15 N) of wheat under controlled growth conditions.


Adding P increased shoot growth and P uptake on the Calcarosol, provided the surface remained moist and N was applied. The percentage of plant P derived from fertiliser (Pdff) was greater on the Calcarosol regardless of tillage practice. Pdff increased when the soil remained wet or when N was added. The percentage of N derived from fertiliser (%Ndff) was not affected by tillage practice on the Vertosol but when the soil surface was allowed to dry, it was significantly greater under ZT than CT on the Calcarosol. Adding P increased N fertiliser recovery but tillage practice had no effect.


The effect of tillage practice on P and N fertiliser use efficiency depends on soil and topsoil water status.


Wheat Tillage Nutrient use efficiency 15 N 33



We would like to acknowledge the expert technical assistance of Caroline Johnston (CSIRO) with the preparation of the 33P component and subsequent chemical analysis, Dr B Kuskopf (University of Melbourne) for 15 N analysis and Roger Perris, Claire McMahon and Mel Munn (Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources) for assistance with collecting the intact cores and running the glasshouse experiment. The research was co-funded by the Grains Research & Development Corporation (Project DAV00095).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. D. Armstrong
    • 1
    • 5
  • K. Dunsford
    • 1
  • M. J. McLaughlin
    • 2
    • 3
  • T. McBeath
    • 3
  • S. Mason
    • 2
  • V. M. Dunbabin
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Economic Development, JobsTransport and ResourcesHorshamAustralia
  2. 2.School of Agriculture, Food and Wine and Waite Research InstituteThe University of AdelaideGlen OsmondAustralia
  3. 3.CSIRO Agriculture FlagshipGlen OsmondAustralia
  4. 4.Tasmanian Institute of AgricultureThe University of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  5. 5.Department of Animal, Plant and Soil SciencesLa Trobe UniversityBundooraAustralia

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