Plant and Soil

, Volume 349, Issue 1–2, pp 69–87 | Cite as

The chemical nature of P accumulation in agricultural soils—implications for fertiliser management and design: an Australian perspective

  • Mike J. McLaughlinEmail author
  • Therese M. McBeath
  • Ron Smernik
  • Sam P. Stacey
  • Babasola Ajiboye
  • Chris Guppy
Regular Article


Many agricultural soils worldwide in their natural state are deficient in phosphorus (P), and the production of healthy agricultural crops has required the regular addition of P fertilisers. In cropping systems, P accumulates almost predominantly in inorganic forms in soil, associated with aluminium, calcium and iron. In pasture soils, P accumulates in both inorganic and organic forms, but the chemical nature of much organic P is still unresolved. The P use efficiency (PUE) of fertilisers is generally low in the year of application, but residual effectiveness is important, highlighting the importance of soil P testing prior to fertiliser use. With increasing costs of P fertiliser, various technologies have been suggested to improve PUE, but few have provided solid field evidence for efficacy. Fluid fertilisers have been demonstrated under field conditions to increase PUE on highly calcareous soils. Slow release P products have been demonstrated to improve PUE in soils where leaching is important. Modification of soil chemistry around the fertiliser granule or fluid injection point also offers promise for increasing PUE, but is less well validated. Better placement of P, even into subsoils, also offers promise to increase PUE in both cropping and pasture systems.


P-use efficiency Inorganic P Organic P Sorption Precipitation Fixation Fertiliser placement 



diammonium phosphate


dicalcium phosphate dihydrate


ethylenediamine tetraacetate


monoammonium phosphate


monocalcium phosphate


nuclear magnetic resonance


organic matter




inorganic P


organic P


P use efficiency


reactive phosphate rock


triple superphosphate


x-ray absorption near-edge structure



The authors thank Mark Conyers, Peter Cornish, Keith Helyar and Peter Randall for critical discussion of the ideas expressed in this paper. MJM, SS, and BA acknowledge support from The Mosaic Company LLC and the Grains Research and Development Corporation, and MJM and TM acknowledge support from the Australian Research Council and the South Australian Grains Industry Trust. Preparation of this review was funded in part by the Meat and Livestock Australia Ltd and CSIRO’s National Research Flagships Program’s Flagship Collaboration Fund which aims to enhance collaboration between CSIRO’s Flagships, Australian universities and other publicly-funded research agencies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mike J. McLaughlin
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Therese M. McBeath
    • 1
  • Ron Smernik
    • 2
  • Sam P. Stacey
    • 2
  • Babasola Ajiboye
    • 2
  • Chris Guppy
    • 3
  1. 1.CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture FlagshipCSIRO Land and Water, PMB 2Glen OsmondAustralia
  2. 2.Soil Science, School of Agriculture Food and Wine, Waite Research InstituteThe University of Adelaide, PMB 1Glen OsmondAustralia
  3. 3.School of Environmental and Rural ScienceUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia

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