soil³ publikation

soil³ publikation
October 29, 2020

New publication Soil³:

The phosphorus status of German cropland—An inventory of top‐ and subsoils

by: Martina I. Gocke, Axel Don, Arne Heidkamp, Florian Schneider, Wulf Amelung


Background: In search for more sustainable crop production, the subsoil has recently come into focus as considerable reservoir of nutrients and water.

Aims: Dimensions of subsoil phosphorus (P) reserves are yet largely unknown but crucial for identifying regions suitable to include subsoil into sustainable management strategies.

Methods: We analyzed stocks of total and plant‐available (calcium acetate lactate‐extractable) P in 96 representative soil profiles of German arable land down to 1 m depth.

Results: We found that the German arable soils stored, on average, 8 t ha−1 of total P, of which nearly 500 kg ha−1 were readily plant‐available. Notably, one third of plant‐available P was located below the plow layer and one fifth even at depths below 0.5 m. The depth gradients of plant‐available P stocks were affected more by major reference soil group than by texture. Generally, Chernozem but also Anthrosol, Gleysol and Fluvisol exhibited the largest P stocks in German cropland. The contribution of plant‐available P to total P stocks was larger in sandy and extremely acidic (pH < 4.5) soils compared with more fine‐grained and slightly acidic to alkaline soils, possibly because fertilization compensated for overall lower total P stocks at these sites. Generally, the more P was stored in topsoils, the more P was stored also in subsoils.

Conclusions: A hypothetical crop utilization of 10% from plant‐available P stocks and 0.1% from total P stocks from shallow subsoil could compensate for P fertilization by ca. 8 kg ha−1, but the rate of plant‐available P replenishment in subsoil likely remains the crucial factor for the role of subsoil P stocks in crop nutrition. Generally, the large P reserves found in subsoil could act as an ‘insurance' system for crops.


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