National Reactive Phosphate Rock Project —aims, experimental approach and site characteristics Academic Article uri icon


  • Summary. Field-based cutting trials, which formed part of the National Reactive Phosphate Rock Project, were established across Australia in a range of environments to evaluate the agronomic effectiveness of 5 phosphate rocks, and 1 partially acidulated phosphate rock, relative to either single superphosphate or triple superphosphate. The phosphate rocks differed in reactivity. Sechura (Bayovar) and North Carolina phosphate rocks were highly reactive (>70% solubility in 2% formic acid), whilst Khouribja (Moroccan) and Hamrawein (Egypt) phosphate rock were moderately reactive. Duchess phosphate rock from Queensland was relatively unreactive (<45% solubility in 2% formic acid). Phosphate rock effectiveness was assessed by measuring pasture production over a range of phosphorus levels, and by monitoring bicarbonate-soluble phosphorus extracted from soil samples collected before the start of each growing season. Other treatments included single large applications of triple superphosphate, partially acidulated phosphate rock and North Carolina phosphate rock applied at 2 rates, and the application of monocalcium phosphate and North Carolina phosphate rock sources without sulfur to evaluate the importance of sulfur in the potential use of phosphate rock fertilisers at each site. A broad range of environments were represented over the 30 sites which were based on pastures using annual and/or perennial legumes and perennial grasses. Rainfall across the network of sites ranged from 560 to 4320 mm, soil pH (CaCl2) from 4.0 to 5.1, and Colwell-extractable phosphorus ranged from 3 to 47 µg/g before fertiliser application. Two core experiments were established at each site. The first measured the effects of phosphate rock reactivity on agronomic effectiveness, while the second measured the effects of the degree of water solubility of the phosphorus source on agronomic effectiveness. The National Reactive Phosphate Rock Project trials gave the opportunity to confirm the suitability of accepted procedures to model fertiliser response and to develop new approaches for comparing different fertiliser responses. The Project also provided the framework for subsidiary studies such as the effect of fertiliser source on soil phosphorus extractability, cadmium and fluorine concentrations in herbage, evaluation of soil phosphorus tests, and the influence of particle size on phosphate rock effectiveness. The National Reactive Phosphate Rock Project presents a valuable model for a large, Australia-wide, collaborative team approach to an important agricultural issue. The use of standard and consistent experimental methodologies at every site ensured that maximum benefit was obtained from data generated. The aims, rationale and methods used for the experiments across the network are presented and discussed.


  • McLaughlin, MJ
  • Fleming, NK
  • Simpson, PG
  • Bolland, MDA
  • Gilkes, RJ
  • Sale, PWG
  • Blair, GJ
  • Hepworth, G
  • Gilbert, MA
  • Stewart, J
  • Garden, DL
  • Dann, PR
  • Hamilton, L
  • Hunter, J
  • Cayley, JWD
  • Ward, GN
  • Johnson, D
  • Lewis, DC

publication date

  • 1997