Plant and Soil

, Volume 237, Issue 2, pp 197–210 | Cite as

Phosphorus Transformations in an Oxisol under contrasting land-use systems: The role of the soil microbial biomass

  • A. Oberson
  • D. K. Friesen
  • I.M. Rao
  • S. Bühler
  • E. Frossard


It is generally assumed that phosphorus (P) availability for plant growth on highly weathered and P-deficient tropical soils may depend more on biologically mediated organic P (Po) turnover processes than on the release of adsorbed inorganic P (Pi). However, experimental evidence showing the linkages between Po, microbial activity, P cycling and soil P availability is scarce. To test whether land-use systems with higher soil Po are characterized by greater soil biological activity and increased P mineralization, we analyzed the partitioning of P among various organic and inorganic P fractions in soils of contrasting agricultural land-use systems and related it to biological soil properties. Isotopic labeling was used to obtain information on the turnover of P held in the microbial biomass. Soil samples were taken from grass–legume pasture (GL), continuous rice (CR) and native savanna (SAV) which served as reference. In agreement with estimated P budgets (+277, +70 and 0 kg P ha−1 for CR, GL and SAV, respectively), available P estimated using Bray-2 and resin extraction declined in the order CR > GL > SAV. Increases in Bray-2 and resin Pi were greater in CR than GL relative to total soil P increase. Organic P fractions were significantly less affected by P inputs than inorganic fractions, but were a more important sink in GL than CR soils. Extractable microbial P (Pchl) was slightly higher in GL (6.6 mg P kg−1) than SAV soils (5.4 mg P kg−1), and significantly lowest in CR (2.6 mg P kg−1). Two days after labeling the soil with carrier free 33P, 25, 10 and 2% of the added 33P were found in Pchl in GL, SAV and CR soils, respectively, suggesting a high and rapid microbial P turnover that was highest in GL soils. Indicators of P mineralization were higher in GL than CR soils, suggesting a greater transformation potential to render Po available. Legume-based pastures (GL) can be considered as an important land-use option as they stimulate P cycling. However, it remains to be investigated whether crops planted in pasture–crop rotations could benefit from the enhanced Po cycling in grass–legume soils. Furthermore, there is need to develop and test a direct method to quantify Po mineralization in these systems.

Organic phosphorus Oxisol Phosphorus availability Phosphorus transformations Soil microbial biomass 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Almeida J P F, Lüscher A, Frehner M, Oberson A and Nösberger J 1999 Partitioning of P and the activity of root acid phosphatase in white clover (Trifolium repens L) are modified by increased CO2 and P fertilization. Plant Soil 210, 159–166.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson T H and Domsch K H 1990 Application of ecophysiological quotients (qCO2 and qD) on microbial biomasses from soils of different cropping histories. Soil Biol. Biochem. 22, 251–255.Google Scholar
  3. Barrios E, Corrales I I, Asakawa N, Cobo J G, Thomas R J and Friesen D K 1999 Soil macroorganic matter and N mineralization in crop-rotations and ley farming systems for acid-soil savannas of Colombia. In CIAT 1999. Overcoming soil degradation through productivity enhancement and natural resource conservation. Annual Report 1999 pp. 108–112. CIAT, Cali, Colombia.Google Scholar
  4. Beck MA and Sánchez P A 1994 Soil phosphorus fraction dynamics during 18 years of cultivation on a typic Paleudult. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 58, 1424–1431. Beck M A and Sánchez P A 1996 Soil phosphorus movement and budget after 13 years of fertilized cultivation in the Amazon basin. Plant Soil 184, 23-31.Google Scholar
  5. Cadisch G and Giller K E 1997 Driven by nature. Plant litter quality and decomposition. CAB International, 409 p.Google Scholar
  6. Cadisch G, Sylvester-Bradley R and Noesberger J 1989 15N-based estimation of nitrogen fixation by eight tropical forage-legumes at two levels of P:K supply. Field Crops Res. 22, 181–194.Google Scholar
  7. Cambardella C A and Elliott E T 1992 Particulate soil organic matter changes across a grassland cultivation sequence. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 56, 777–783.Google Scholar
  8. Chauhan B S, Stewart J W B and Paul E A 1981 Effect of labile inorganic phosphate status and organic carbon additions on the microbial uptake of phosphorus in soils. Can. J. Soil Sci. 61, 373–385.Google Scholar
  9. CIAT 1999 Overcoming soil degradation through productivity enhancement and natural resource conservation. Annual Report 1999, CIAT, Cali, Colombia.Google Scholar
  10. Digthon J 1983 Phosphatase production by mycorrhizal fungi. Plant Soil 71: 455–462.Google Scholar
  11. Fageria N K and Baligar V C 1997 Phosphorus-use efficiency by corn genotypes. J. Plant Nutr. 20, 1267–1277.Google Scholar
  12. Fairhurst T, Lefroy R, Mutert E and Batjes N 1999 The importance, distribution and causes of phosphorus deficiency as a constraint to crop production in the tropics.Agroforestry Forum 9, 2–8.Google Scholar
  13. Fardeau J C 1993 Le phosphore assimilable des sols: sa représentation par un modèle fonctionnel à plusieurs compartiments. Agronomie 13, 317–331.Google Scholar
  14. Feigl B J, Sparling G P, Ross D J and Cerri C C 1995 Soil microbial biomass in Amazonian soils: evaluation of methods and estimates of pool sizes. Soil Biol. Biochem. 27, 1467–1472.Google Scholar
  15. Feller C, Frossard E and Brossard M 1994 Activité phosphatasique de quelques sols tropicaux à argile 1:1. Répartition dans les fractions granulométriques. Can. J. Soil Sci. 74, 121–129.Google Scholar
  16. Fliessbach A and Mäder P 1997 Carbon source utilisation by microbial communities in soils under organic and conventional farming practice. In Microbial communities: functional versus structural approaches. Eds. H Insam and A Rangger. pp. 109–120. Springer, Berlin Germany.Google Scholar
  17. Friesen D K and Blair G J 1988 A dual radiotracer study of transformations of organic, inorganic and plant residue phosphorus in soil in the presence and absence of plants. Aust. J. Soil Res. 26, 355–366.Google Scholar
  18. Friesen D K, Rao I M, Thomas R J, Oberson A and Sanz J I 1997 Phosphorus acquisition and cycling in crop and pasture systems in low fertility tropical soils. Plant Soil 196, 289–294.Google Scholar
  19. Frossard E, Condron LM, Oberson A, Sinaj S and Fardeau J C 2000 Processes governing phosphorus availability in temperate soils. J. Environ. Qual. 29, 15–23.Google Scholar
  20. Gijsman A J 1996 Soil aggregate stability and soil organic matter fractions under agropastoral systems established in native savanna. Aust. J. Soil Res. 34, 891–907.Google Scholar
  21. Gijsman A J, Oberson A, Tiessen H and Friesen D K 1996 Limited applicability of the Century model to highly weathered tropical soils. Agron. J. 88, 894–903.Google Scholar
  22. Gijsman A J, Alcaron H F and Thomas R T 1997a Root decomposition in tropical grasses and legumes, as affected by soil texture and season. Soil Biol. Biochem. 29, 1443–1450.Google Scholar
  23. Gijsman A J, Oberson A, Friesen D K, Sanz J I and Thomas R T 1997b Nutrient cycling through microbial biomass under ricepasture rotations replacing native savanna. Soil Biol. Biochem. 29, 1433–1441.Google Scholar
  24. Gressel N, McColl J G, Preston C M, Newman R H and Powers R 1996 Linkages between phosphorus transformations and carbon decomposition in a forest soil. Biogeochemistry 33, 97–123.Google Scholar
  25. Grierson G F, Comerford N B and Jokela E J (1999) Phosphorus mineralization and microbial biomass in a Florida Spodosol: effects of water potential, temperature and fertilizer application. Biol. Fertil. Soils 28, 244–252.Google Scholar
  26. Guggenberger G, Haumeier L, Thomas R J and Zech W 1996 Assessing the organic phosphorus status of an Oxisol under tropical pastures following native savanna using 31P NMR spectroscopy. Biol. Fertil. Soils 23, 332–339.Google Scholar
  27. Hedley M J, Stewart J W B and Chauhan B S 1982 Changes in inorganic and organic soil phosphorus fractions induced by cultivation practices and by laboratory incubations. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 46, 970–976.Google Scholar
  28. Illmer P, Barbato A and Schinner F 1995 Solubilization of hardlysoluble AlPO4 with P-solubilizing microorganisms. Soil Biol. Biochem. 27, 265–270.Google Scholar
  29. Joergensen R G 1996 The fumigation-extraction method to estimate soil microbial biomass: calibration of the kec value. Soil Biol. Biochem. 28, 25–31.Google Scholar
  30. Joh T, Malick D H, Yazaki J and Hayakawa T 1996 Purification and characterization of secreted acid phosphatase under phosphatedeficient condition in Pholiota nameko. Mycoscience 37, 65–70.Google Scholar
  31. Kucey R M N, Janzen H H and Leggett M E 1989 Microbially mediated increases in plant-available phosphorus. Adv. Agron. 42, 199–228.Google Scholar
  32. Lascano C E 1991 Managing the grazing resource for animal production in savannas of tropical America. Trop. Grasslands 25, 66–72.Google Scholar
  33. Lascano C, Euclides V P B 1996 Nutritional quality and animal production of Brachiaria pastures. In Brachiaria: biology, agronomy and improvement. Eds. J W Miles, B Maass and do Valle C B. pp. 106–123.Google Scholar
  34. Leprince F and Quiquampoix H 1996 Extracellular enzyme activity in soil: effect of pH and ionic strength on the interaction with montmorillonite of two acid phosphatases secreted by the ectomycorrhizal fungus Hebeloma cylindrosporum. Eur. J. Soil Sci. 47, 511–522.Google Scholar
  35. Lopez-Hernandez D, Brossard M and Frossard E 1998 P-isotopic exchangeable values in relation to Po mineralization in soils with very low P-sorbing capacities. Soil Biol. Biochem. 30, 1663–1670.Google Scholar
  36. Lynch P J and Beebe S E 1995 Adaptation of beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) to low phosphorus availability. HortScience 30, 1165–1171.Google Scholar
  37. Macklon A E S, Grayston S J, Shand C A, Sim A, Sellars S and Ord B G 1997 Uptake and transport of phosphorus by Agrostis capillaris seedlings from rapidly hydrolysed organic sources extracted from 32P-labelled bacterial cultures. Plant Soil 190, 163–167.Google Scholar
  38. Magid J, Tiessen H and Condron L M 1996 Dynamics of organic phosphorus in soils under natural and agricultural ecosystems. In Humic substances in terrestrial ecosystems. Ed. H Piccolo. pp429–466. Elsevier, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  39. McLaughlin M J, Alston A M and Martin J K 1988 Phosphorus cycling in wheat-pasture rotations II The role of the microbial biomass in phosphorus cycling. Aust. J. Soil Res. 26, 333–342.Google Scholar
  40. Morel C, Tiessen H and Stewart J W B 1996 Correction for Psorption in the measurement of soil microbial biomass P by CHCl3 fumigation. Soil Biol. Biochem. 28, 1699–1706.Google Scholar
  41. Myers R G, Thien S J and Piersynski G M 1999 Using an ion sink to extract microbial phosphorus from soil. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 63, 1229–1237.Google Scholar
  42. NRC (National Research Council) 1984 Nutrient requirements of domestic animals, Number 4. Nutrient requirements of beef cattle. National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, USAGoogle Scholar
  43. Oberson A, Friesen D K, Morel C and Tiessen H 1997 Determination of phosphorus released by chloroform fumigation from microbial biomass in high P sorbing tropical soils. Soil Biol. Biochem. 29, 1579–1583.Google Scholar
  44. Oberson A, Friesen D K, Tiessen H, Morel C and Stahel W 1999 Phosphorus status and cycling in native savanna and improved pastures on an acid low-P Colombian Oxisol. Nutr. Cycl. Agroecosyst. 55, 77–88.Google Scholar
  45. Oehl F, Oberson A, Sinaj S and Frossard E 2001 Organic phosphorus mineralization studies using isotopic dilution techniques. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. (in press).Google Scholar
  46. Oshima Y and Halvorson H 1994 Regulation of phosphate metabolism in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Introduction. In Phosphate in microorganisms. Eds. A Torriani-Gorini, S Silver and E Yagil p 55. Am Soc Microbiol, Washington.Google Scholar
  47. Phiri S, Barrios E, Rao I M and Singh B R 2001. Changes in soil organic matter and phosphorus fractions under planted fallows and a crop rotation system on a Colombian volcanic-ash soil. Plant Soil (in press)Google Scholar
  48. Pellet D and El-Sharkawy M A 1993 Cassava varietal response to phosphorus fertilization II. Phosphorus uptake and use efficiency. Field Crops Res. 35, 13–20.Google Scholar
  49. Rao I M, Ayarza M A and Thomas R J 1994 The use of carbon isotope ratios to evaluate legume contribution to soil enhancement in tropical pastures. Plant Soil 162: 177–182.Google Scholar
  50. Rao I M, Ayarza M A and Garcia R 1995 Adaptive attributes of tropical forage species to acid soils I. Differences in plant growth, nutrient acquisition and nutrient utilization among C4 grasses and C3 legumes. J. Plant Nutr. 18, 2135–2155.Google Scholar
  51. Rao I M, Borrero V, Ricaurte J, Garcia R and Ayarza M A 1997 Adaptive attributes of tropical forage species to acid soils III. Differences in phosphorus acquisition and utilization as influenced by varying phosphorus supply and soil type. J. Plant Nutr. 20, 155–180.Google Scholar
  52. Rao I M, Friesen D K and Osaki M 1999a Plant adaptation to phosphorus-limited tropical soils. In Handbook of plant and crop stress. pp 61–96. Marcel Dekker, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  53. Rao I M, Borrero V, Ricaurte J and Garcia R 1999b Adaptive attributes of tropical forage species to acid soils. V. Differences in phosphorus acquisition from less available inorganic and organic sources of phosphate. J. Plant Nutr. 22, 1175–1196.Google Scholar
  54. Renz T E, Neufeldt H, Ayarza M, J.E. da Silva and Zeck W 1999 Acid monophosphatase: an indicator of phosphorus mineralization or of microbial activity? A case study from the Brazilian Cerrados. In Sustainable land management for the Oxisols of the Latin American Savannas. Eds. R J Thomas and MA Ayarza. pp. 173–186. CIAT Cali, Colombia.Google Scholar
  55. Seeling B and Zasoski R J 1993 Microbial effects in maintaining organic and inorganic solution phosphorus concentrations in a grassland topsoil. Plant Soil 148, 277–284.Google Scholar
  56. Sinsabaugh R L, Antibus R K, Linkins A E, McClaugherty C.A., Rayburn L, Repert D and Weiland T 1993 Wood decomposition: nitrogen and phosphorus dynamics in relation to extracellular enzyme activity. Ecology 74, 1586–1593.Google Scholar
  57. Sparling G P 1992 Ratio of microbial biomass carbon to soil organic carbon as a sensitive indicator of changes in soil organic matter. Aust. J. Soil Res. 30, 195–207.Google Scholar
  58. Sparling G and Zhu C 1993 Evaluation and calibration of biochemical methods to measure microbial biomass C and N in soils from Western Australia. Soil Biol. Biochem. 25, 1793–1801.Google Scholar
  59. Stewart J W B and Tiessen H 1987 Dynamics of soil organic phosphorus. Biogeochemistry 4, 41–60.Google Scholar
  60. Tabatabai M A 1982 Soil enzymes. In Methods of soil analysis, Part 2. Chemical and microbiological properties. Eds. A L Page, R H Miller and D R Keeney. pp. 903-947. ASA, and SSSA, Madison, WI, USA.Google Scholar
  61. Thomas R J 1992 The role of the legume in the nitrogen cycle of productive and sustainable pastures. Grass Forage Sci. 47, 133–142.Google Scholar
  62. Thomas R J and Asakawa N M 1993 Decomposition of leaf litter from tropical forage grasses and legumes. Soil Biol. Biochem. 25, 1351–1361.Google Scholar
  63. Thomas R J and Lascano C E 1995 The benefits of forage legumes for livestock production and nutrient cycling in pasture and agropastoral systems of acid soils savannas of Latin America. In Livestock and sustainable nutrient cycling in mixed farming systems of sub-sahara Africa. Eds. J M Powell, S Fernandez-Rivera, T O Williams and C Renard. pp. 277–291. ILCA, Ethiopia.Google Scholar
  64. Tiessen H and Moir J 1993 Characterisation of available P by sequential extraction. In Soil Sampling and Methods of Analysis. Ed. M R Carter. pp. 75–86. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL,USA.Google Scholar
  65. Tiessen H and Shang C 1998 Organic matter turnover in tropical land use systems. In Carbon and nutrient dynamics in natural and agricultural tropical ecosystems. Eds. L Bergström and H Kirchmann. pp. 1–14. CAB International.Google Scholar
  66. Tiessen H, Stewart J W B and Cole C V 1984 Pathways in phosphorus transformations in soils of differing pedogenesis. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 48, 853–858.Google Scholar
  67. Tiessen H, Salcedo I H and Sampaio E V S B 1992 Nutrient and soil organic matter dynamics under shifting cultivation in semiarid northeastern Brazil. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environ. 38, 139–151.Google Scholar
  68. Torriani-Gorini A. 1994 Regulation of phosphate metabolism and transport. Introduction: the pho regulon of Escherichia coli. Eds. A Torriani-Gorini, E Yagil and S Silver. pp 1–4. Am Soc. Microbiol, Washington, DC, USAGoogle Scholar
  69. Umrit G and Friesen D K 1994 Effect of C:P ratio of crop residues and soil P sorption capacity on the utilization of P from crop residues by plants. Plant Soil 158, 275-285.Google Scholar
  70. Vance E D, Brookes P C and Jenkinson D S 1987 An extraction method for measuring soil microbial biomass C. Soil Biol. Biochem. 19, 703–707.Google Scholar
  71. Vanlauwe B, Aman S, Aihou K, Tossah B K, Adebiyi V, Sanginga N, Lyasse O, Diels J and Merckx R 1999 Alley cropping in the moist savanna of West-Africa III. Soil organic matter fractionation and soil productivity. Agroforestry Syst. 42, 245–264.Google Scholar
  72. Walbridge M R and Vitousek P M 1987 Phosphorus mineralization potentials in acid organic soils: processes affecting 32PO4 isotope dilution measurements. Soil Biol. Biochem. 19, 709–717.Google Scholar
  73. Wanner B L 1996 Phosphorus assimilation and control of the phosphate regulon. In Escherichia coli and Salmonella. Ed. F C Neidhardt. pp 1357-1381. Am. Soc. Microbiol., Washington,DC, USA.Google Scholar
  74. Yazaki J, Joh T, Tomida SI and Hayakawa T 1997 Acid phosphatase isozymes secreted under phosphate-deficient conditions in Pholiota nameko. Mycoscience 38, 347–350.Google Scholar
  75. Zibiliske L M 1994 Carbon mineralization. In Methods of soil analysis. Part 2: Microbiological and biochemical properties. Ed. SSSA, Madison, WI, USA.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Oberson
    • 1
    • 2
  • D. K. Friesen
    • 3
  • I.M. Rao
    • 2
  • S. Bühler
    • 1
  • E. Frossard
    • 1
  1. 1.Group of Plant Nutrition, Institute of Plant SciencesSwiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)LindauSwitzerland
  2. 2.CIATCaliColombia
  3. 3.CIMMYT/IFDCNairobiKenya

Personalised recommendations