Complex Forms of Soil Organic Phosphorus–A Major Component of Soil Phosphorus Academic Article uri icon


  • Phosphorus (P) is an essential element for life, an innate constituent of soil organic matter, and a major anthropogenic input to terrestrial ecosystems. The supply of P to living organisms is strongly dependent on the dynamics of soil organic P. However, fluxes of P through soil organic matter remain unclear because only a minority (typically <30%) of soil organic P has been identified as recognizable biomolecules of low molecular weight (e.g., inositol hexakisphosphates). Here, we use (31)P nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to determine the speciation of organic P in soil extracts fractionated into two molecular weight ranges. Speciation of organic P in the high molecular weight fraction (>10 kDa) was markedly different to that of the low molecular weight fraction (<10 kDa). The former was dominated by a broad peak, which is consistent with P bound by phosphomonoester linkages of supra-/macro-molecular structures, whereas the latter contained all of the sharp peaks that were present in unfractionated extracts, along with some broad signal. Overall, phosphomonoesters in supra-/macro-molecular structures were found to account for the majority (61% to 73%) of soil organic P across the five diverse soils. These soil phosphomonoesters will need to be integrated within current models of the inorganic-organic P cycle of soil-plant terrestrial ecosystems.


  • McLaren, Timothy I
  • Smernik, Ronald J
  • McLaughlin, Mike J
  • McBeath, Therese M
  • Kirby, Jason K
  • Simpson, Richard J
  • Guppy, Christopher N
  • Doolette, Ashlea L
  • Richardson, Alan E

publication date

  • November 17, 2015