Phosphorus leaching in sandy soils. I. Short-term effects of fertilizer applications and environmental conditions

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Australian Journal of Soil Research


phosphorus, superphosphate, soil solution, soil test, leaching, sorption, long-term, phosphorus source, fertiliser


Agriculture | Agronomy and Crop Sciences | Soil Science | Sustainability


The short-term effects of fertilizer applications and environmental conditions on phosphorus leaching in sandy soils were investigated in laboratory and field experiments. Phosphorus concentrations decreased logarithmically in successive supernatants of sequentially desorbed soils. More P was desorbed from soils incubated with superphosphate and lime-superphosphate than soil incubated with coastal superphosphate. At each level of pre-leaching, the P concentrations in the soil solution increased with time. The level to which the P concentration in the soil solution increased at each time, decreased with increased extent of pre-leaching. The addition of P fertilizers increased the concentration of P in the soil solution. The concentrations increased with increasing application rate and were much higher for superphosphate than for coastal superphosphate; however, there was little effect of contact time on soil solution P levels. Rapidly released P levels after leaching increased during a period of no further leaching. Additional moisture or plant material during this period of no further leaching increased the rate and extent to which rapidly released P increased. Monitoring of rapidly released P in the 0-2, 2-5, 5-10 and 10-20 cm layers of field plots, with and without applications of superphosphate, showed that sampling depth, water flow path, fertilizer management, rainfall pattern and background P levels would affect the estimate of short-term P losses. Rapidly released P in the 0-2 cm layer varied markedly with time and was higher (P <0.05) than that in lower soil layers. Rapidly released P increased after the winter and spring rains diminished and then decreased after the rains commenced again at the end of the summer. A possible annual cycle of P in sandy soils in a mediterranean climate is postulated.