Fertilizer P-derived uranium continues to accumulate at Rothamsted long-term experiments

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Sun, Y., Amelung, W., Wu, B., Haneklaus, S., Schnug, E. and Bol, R. 2022. Fertilizer P-derived uranium continues to accumulate at Rothamsted long-term experiments. Science of the Total Environment. 820, p. 153118. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.153118

AuthorsSun, Y., Amelung, W., Wu, B., Haneklaus, S., Schnug, E. and Bol, R.

The application of phosphorus (P) fertilizers inevitably contributes to the accumulation of trace elements, such as uranium (U), in agricultural soils. The fertilizer-derived U accumulation was first reported in Rothamsted Research in 1979. In the present study, we expand this early key research by evaluating the fertilizer-derived U accumulation in topsoil (0–23 cm) from 1876 to the 2010s. We found that total U accumulation rates ranged from 2.8 to 6.1 μg U kg−1 yr−1 at the Broadbalk and Park Grass, respectively, being similar to those observed 40 years ago. This highlights that U accumulation is still an ongoing process in Rothamsted. Fortunately, the proportion of fertilizer-derived U did not significantly increase in the ammonium acetate extractable (‘proxy’ of plant-available) fraction over 130 years. In addition, we compiled an overview of the global rate of mineral P fertilizer-derived U accumulation in agricultural systems using existing literature (36 experimental trials, from 11 countries). The resulting dataset predicts an estimated mean U accumulation of 0.85 μg U kg−1 soil for an annual application of 1 kg P ha−1 in the topsoil of agricultural systems (0.26 μg U kg−1 per kg P ha−1 for arable land and 1.34 μg U kg−1 per kg P ha−1 for grassland). The annual U accumulation per applied kg P ha−1 being 0.08 (Broadbalk) and 0.17 μg U (Park Grass) corresponds to around one-third and one-eighth of the worldwide mean U accumulation for their respective agricultural systems, suggesting ‘relatively’ low U contents of the applied P fertilizers. Our study underscores that fertilizer-derived U accumulation is a persistent problem on the global scale, even if at different rates, and therewith suggests an evaluation of current regulatory limits and acceptable U input levels from P fertilization.

KeywordsFertilizer-derived uranium; Rothamsted; Soil; Agriculture; Phosphorus
Year of Publication2022
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Journal citation820, p. 153118
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.153118
Open accessPublished as non-open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeThe Rothamsted Long Term Experiments [2017-2022]
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online15 Jan 2022
Publication process dates
Accepted10 Jan 2022
PublisherElsevier Science Bv

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