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Mobilization of soil and fertilizer phosphate by cover crops

Abstract

Incorporation of cover crops into cropping systems may contribute to a more efficient utilization of soil and fertilizer P by less P-efficient crops through exudation of P-mobilizing compounds by the roots of P-efficient plant species. The main objective of the present work was to test this hypothesis. First a method has been developed which allows the quantification of organic anion exudation from individual cluster roots formed by P-deficient white lupin (Lupinus albus L.). Lupin plants were grown in nutrient solution at 1 μM P and in a low P loess in small rhizotrons. Organic anions exuded from intact plants grown in nutrient solution were collected from individual cluster roots and root tips sealed in small compartments by an anion-exchange resin placed in nylon bags (resin-bags). Succinate was the dominant organic anion exuded followed by citrate and malate. The mean of citrate exudation-rate was 0.06 pmol mm−1 s−1 with exudation highly dependent on the citrate concentration and on the age of the cluster roots. Exudates from cluster roots and root tips grown at the soil surface (rhizotron-grown plants) were collected using overlayered resin–agar (resin mixed with agar). Citrate exudation from cluster roots was 10 times higher than that from root tips. Fractionation of P in the cluster root rhizosphere-soil indicates that white lupin can mobilize P not only from the available and acid-soluble P, but also from the stable residual soil P fractions. In pot experiments with an acid luvisol derived from loess low in available P, growth of wheat was significantly improved when mixed-cropped with white lupin due to improved P uptake. Both in mixed culture and in rotation wheat could benefit from the P mobilization capacity of white lupin, supporting the hypothesis above. Nine tropical leguminous cover crops and maize were grown in a pot experiment using a luvisol from Northern Nigeria low in available P. All plant species derived most of their P from the resin and bicarbonate-extractable inorganic P. Organic P (Po) accumulated particularly in the rhizosphere of all plant species. There was a significant negative correlation between the species-specific rhizosphere acid phosphatase activity and Po accumulation. Growth and P uptake of maize grown in rotation after legumes were enhanced indicating that improved P nutrition was a contributing factor.

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Kamh, M., Horst, W.J., Amer, F. et al. Mobilization of soil and fertilizer phosphate by cover crops. Plant and Soil 211, 19–27 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1004543716488

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1004543716488

  • cover crops
  • legumes
  • Lupinus albus
  • phosphorus efficiency
  • root exudates
  • rotation