Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Phosphorus in agricultural soils of Finland - characterization of reserves and retention in mineral soil profiles

Tommi Peltovuori

Doctoral dissertation, August 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, Department of Applied Chemistry and Microbiology, Environmental Soil Science.

An overwhelming majority of all the research on soil phosphorus (P) has been carried out with soil samples taken from the surface soils only, and our understanding of the forms and the reactions of P at a soil profile scale is based on few observations. In Finland, the interest in studying the P in complete soil profiles has been particularly small because of the lack of tradition in studying soil genesis, morphology, or classification.

In this thesis, the P reserves and the retention of orthophosphate phosphorus (PO4-P) were examined in four cultivated mineral soil profiles in Finland (three Inceptisols and one Spodosol). The soils were classified according to the U.S. Soil Taxonomy and soil samples were taken from the genetic horizons in the profiles. The samples were analyzed for total P concentration, Chang and Jackson P fractions, P sorption properties, concentrations of water-extractable P, and for concentrations of oxalate-extractable Al and Fe. Theoretical P sorption capacities and degrees of P saturation were calculated with the data from the oxalate-extractions and the P fractionations.

The studied profiles can be divided into sections with clearly differing P characteristics by their master horizons Ap, B and C. The C (or transitional BC) horizons below an approximate depth of 70 cm were dominated by, assumingly apatitic, H2SO4-soluble P. The concentration of total P in the C horizons ranged from 729 to 810 mg kg-1. In the B horizons between the depths of 30 and 70 cm, a significant part of the primary acid-soluble P has been weathered and transformed to secondary P forms. A mean weathering rate of the primary P in the soils was estimated to vary between 230 and 290 g ha-1 year-1. The degrees of P saturation in the B and C horizons were smaller than 7%, and the solubility of PO4-P was negligible. The P conditions in the Ap horizons differed drastically from those in the subsurface horizons. The high concentrations of total P (689-1870 mg kg-1) in the Ap horizons are most likely attributable to long-term cultivation with positive P balances. A significant proportion of the P in the Ap horizons occurred in the NH4F- and NaOH-extractable forms and as organic P. These three P pools, together with the concentrations of oxalate-extractable Al and Fe, seem to control the dynamics of PO4-P in the soils. The degrees of P saturation in the Ap horizons were greater (8-36%) than in the subsurface horizons. This was also reflected in the sorption experiments: Only the Ap horizons were able to maintain elevated PO4-P concentrations in the solution phase − all the subsoil horizons acted as sinks for PO4-P.

Most of the available sorption capacity in the soils is located in the B horizons. The results suggest that this capacity could be utilized in reducing the losses of soluble P from excessively fertilized soils by mixing highly sorptive material from the B horizons with the P-enriched surface soil. The drastic differences in the P characteristics observed between adjoining horizons have to be taken into consideration when conducting soil sampling. Sampling of subsoils has to be made according to the genetic horizons or at small depth increments. Otherwise, contrasting materials are likely to be mixed in the same sample; and the results of such samples are not representative of any material present in the studied profile. Air-drying of soil samples was found to alter the results of the sorption experiments and the water extractions. This indicates that the studies on the most labile P forms in soil should be carried out with moist samples.

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Last updated 31.07.2006

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