Plant and Soil

, Volume 401, Issue 1–2, pp 23–38 | Cite as

The fate of fertiliser P in soil under pasture and uptake by subterraneum clover – a field study using 33P-labelled single superphosphate

  • Timothy I. McLarenEmail author
  • Michael J. McLaughlin
  • Therese M. McBeath
  • Richard J. Simpson
  • Ronald J. Smernik
  • Christopher N. Guppy
  • Alan E. Richardson
Regular Article


Background and aims

Single superphosphate (SSP) is a major source of phosphorus (P) used in grazing systems to improve pasture production. The aim of this experiment was to determine the fate of fertiliser P in clover pastures under field conditions.


A procedure was developed to radiolabel SSP granules with a 33P radiotracer, which was then applied to the soil surface (equivalent to ~12 kg P ha−1) of a clover pasture. Recovery of fertiliser P was determined in clover shoots, fertiliser granules and soil fractions (surface layer: 0–4 cm and sub-surface layer: 4–8 cm).


The P diffusion patterns of the 33P-labelled SSP granules were not significantly different to those of commercial SSP granules (P > 0.05). Recovery of fertiliser P in clover shoots was 30–35 %. A considerable proportion of the fertiliser P (~28 %) was recovered in the surface soil layer and was largely inorganic P.


Recovery of fertiliser P by clover plants was up to 35 % in the year of application. Much of the fertiliser P in soil fractions was inorganic P, which highlights the importance of inorganic P forms and dynamics in soils under clover pasture on a single season timeframe at these sites.


Fertilizer Improved grasslands NSP Phosphorus cycling Trifolium subterraneum 



Analysis of variance


Australasian Soil and Plant Analysis Council


Electrical conductivity


Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid


Inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy


Liquid scintillation counter


National Institute of Standards and Technology




Phosphorus buffering index


Phosphorus use efficiency


Polyvinyl chloride cylinders


Single superphosphate


Water soluble phosphorus



Financial support from Meat & Livestock Australia and the Australian Wool Innovation is gratefully acknowledged (Project: B.PUE.0102). The authors would like to thank Mr John Cooper, Mr Andrew Craig, Mr Colin Rivers, Ms Caroline Johnston, Mr Adam Stefanski and Ms Jane Carruthers for technical assistance. The authors are grateful to Dr John McIvor and Dr Merv Probert for constructive criticism on this manuscript. The authors appreciate the South Australian Research & Development Institute (SARDI) who provided land for this experiment.

Supplementary material

11104_2015_2610_MOESM1_ESM.docx (34 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 34 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy I. McLaren
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Michael J. McLaughlin
    • 1
    • 3
  • Therese M. McBeath
    • 1
    • 4
  • Richard J. Simpson
    • 5
  • Ronald J. Smernik
    • 1
  • Christopher N. Guppy
    • 2
  • Alan E. Richardson
    • 5
  1. 1.Soils Group, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine and Waite Research InstituteThe University of AdelaideUrrbraeAustralia
  2. 2.School of Environmental and Rural ScienceUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  3. 3.CSIRO Land and WaterGlen OsmondAustralia
  4. 4.CSIRO Agriculture FlagshipGlen OsmondAustralia
  5. 5.CSIRO Agriculture FlagshipCanberraAustralia

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