Plant and Soil

, Volume 373, Issue 1–2, pp 711–722 | Cite as

Soil test measures of available P (Colwell, resin and DGT) compared with plant P uptake using isotope dilution

  • Sean D. MasonEmail author
  • Mike J. McLaughlin
  • Caroline Johnston
  • Ann McNeill
Regular Article


Background and aims

Recent research has demonstrated the high accuracy of a new method for assessment of plant available P in soil called diffusive gradients in thin-films (DGT). The process of P released by additions of bicarbonate to soil samples simulating common soil P tests is yet to be assessed by the new method (DGT). The aim of this study was to identify the pools of soil P extracted by soil test methods (DGT, Colwell and resin) by comparing, in 32P–labelled soils, the specific activity (SA) of phosphorus extracted by common soil test extracts with the SA of wheat plants grown in a range of agricultural soils from southern Australia.


Wheat (cv. Frame) was grown for 4 weeks in 14 soils that were labelled uniformly with carrier-free 32P. The specific activity (SA) of P (MBq 32P kg 31P−1) in each soil test extract was compared to the SA of P in the wheat plants.


The SA of P in plants were similar to P extracted by the Colwell extractant in only 4 of the 14 soils; while SA in plants and extractants corresponded in 10 of the soils for the resin method and in 12 of the soils for the DGT method. Phosphorus in the Colwell and resin extract solutions had significantly lower SAs compared to P in the plants for 10 and 4 of the soils, respectively, indicating greater extraction of non-labile P sources (unlabelled 31P). Phosphorus in the DGT extractant had significantly lower SA than the plants for 1 soil and in 1 soil the SA was higher. Overall, across all soils, 25 % of P extracted by the Colwell method was non labile compared to 9 % and 2 % for the resin and DGT methods, respectively.


The new DGT method for extraction of soil P has the potential to accurately predict occurrences of P deficiency because it generally extracts the same pool of labile soil P accessed by wheat plants, while methods using bicarbonate solution (e.g. Colwell, Olsen) or water (resin) at wide soil:solution ratios are more likely to measure more non-labile forms of P in soil.


Isotope dilution Nutrient availability Phosphorus deficiency Soil testing Soil fertility 



This work was funded within GRDC project UA 00103.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sean D. Mason
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mike J. McLaughlin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Caroline Johnston
    • 2
  • Ann McNeill
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Agriculture, Food and WineUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture Flagship, CSIRO Land and Water, PMB 2Glen OsmondAustralia

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