Phosphorus auditing cannot account for all of the phosphorus applied to different pasture soils Academic Article uri icon


  • Five field sites established in the high rainfall zone of southern Victoria were used to examine the downwards vertical movement of phosphorus (P) fertiliser on soils which ranged in P sorption capacity. Fertiliser was applied either as a single application of 280 kg P/ha at the beginning of the experiment (April 1998), or as 35�kg�P/ha reapplied every 6 months (totalling 210 kg P/ha by the end of the third year). Soil cores were sampled in June 2001 to a depth of 40 cm, and soil at depths of 0–5, 5–10, 10–20, 20–30, and 30–40 cm was analysed for a range of soil properties and total P concentration.Total P concentration changed very little down the profile, indicating that there was minimal vertical movement of P fertiliser below the 10 cm layer of 5 pasture soils following the single application of 280 kg P/ha or 35 kg P/ha reapplied every 6 months. Soils with low to moderate surface P sorption capacity showed a trend for higher total P concentrations at depth. However, quantitative relationships between vertical P movement and soil properties at depth were poor. A P audit resulted in variable recovery of the applied P (45–128%) in the surface 40 cm at each of the 5 sites. Consistently low P recoveries were achieved at one site, where the surface soil had a high P sorption capacity. Some applied P may have bypassed the high P sorbing surface layers at this site through macropore flow and moved beyond the 40 cm sampling zone, or have been lost to surface runoff. These results question the usefulness of P audit or mass-balance methods for accounting for P movement in a pasture-based system, as spatial heterogeneity of soil properties, both horizontally and vertically, was high in the current study.

publication date

  • 2004