Plant-available soil phosphorus. Part II: the response of arable crops to Olsen P on a sandy clay loam and a silty clay loam

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Johnston, A. E., Poulton, P. R. and White, Robin P. 2013. Plant-available soil phosphorus. Part II: the response of arable crops to Olsen P on a sandy clay loam and a silty clay loam. Soil Use and Management. 29 (1), pp. 12-21.

AuthorsJohnston, A. E., Poulton, P. R. and White, Robin P.

The increasing cost of fertilizer has prompted farmers to ask whether soils could be maintained at lower levels of plant-available phosphorus (Olsen P) than currently recommended, without limiting yield. To help answer this question, critical levels of Olsen P have been determined for spring barley, winter wheat, potatoes and sugar beet grown on a sandy clay loam and a poorly structured heavy textured silty clay loam. On each soil, there were plots with a range of well-established levels of Olsen P and, in one experiment, two levels of soil organic matter (SOM). For each crop and each year, the response curve relating yield to Olsen P was fitted statistically to determine the asymptotic yield and the Olsen P associated with 98% of that yield, that is, the critical Olsen P. Maximum yield of all four crops varied greatly from year to year, in part due to applied nitrogen (N) where it was tested, and in part to seasonal variation in weather, mainly rainfall. The wide range in critical Olsen P, from 8 to 36mg/kg, between years was most probably as a result of differences in soil conditions that affected root growth and thus acquisition of available soil phosphorus (P). Generally, a larger asymptotic yield was not necessarily associated with a larger critical Olsen P. Spring barley and winter wheat given little N required more Olsen P, 2034mg/kg, to achieve the asymptotic yield, compared to 1017mg/kg where ample N was given; presumably, more roots were needed to search the soil for the smaller amounts of available N and root growth is affected by the amount of plant-available soil P. In a field experiment on one soil type, soil with little SOM required 23.5 times more Olsen P to produce the same yield as that on soil with more organic matter. Soil organic matter most probably improved soil structure and hence the ability of roots to grow and search for nutrients in field conditions because when these soils were cropped with ryegrass in controlled conditions in the glasshouse, the yields of grass were independent of SOM and there was the same critical Olsen P for both soils. Overall, the data confirm that, for these soil types, the current recommendations for Olsen P for arable crops in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are appropriate.

KeywordsSoil Science
Year of Publication2013
JournalSoil Use and Management
Journal citation29 (1), pp. 12-21
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as non-open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
HGCA - Home Grown Cereals Authority
Funder project or codeSEF
Centre for Mathematical and Computational Biology (MCB)
Maintaining soil resilience and function for sustainable land management
The 'Classical' experiments: Broadbalk and Park Grass [2001-2012]
Statistics Department (Rothamsted)
Output statusPublished
Copyright licenseCC BY
Grant IDRD-2008-3554

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