Optimization of the diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT) method for simultaneous assay of potassium and plant-available phosphorus in soils.

PMID 23708633


Potassium (K) and phosphorus (P) are two important macronutrients for crops, and are usually applied to soils as granular fertilizer before seeding. Therefore, accurate soil tests prior to planting to predict crop response to fertilizers are important in optimizing crop yields. Traditional methods used for testing both available K and P in soils, which are based on chemical extraction procedures, are to be soil-type dependent, and the predictive relationships across a broad range of soils are generally poor. The diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT) technique, based on diffusion theory, is extensively used to measure the diffusive supply of trace elements, metals and some nutrients in soils and water. When DGT is used to assess plant-available P in soils, a good relationship is found between crop response to P fertilizer and concentrations of P in soil measured by DGT, and therefore the DGT method provides a more precise recommendation of P fertilizer requirements. Adaptation of the DGT method to measure plant-available K in soils has already been attempted [1], but limitations were reported due to the non-uniform size of the resin gel, decreased K binding rate of the gel at long deployment times and a limited ability to measure a wide range of K concentrations. To eliminate these problems, a new resin gel has been developed by combining Amberlite and ferrihydrite. This mixed Amberlite and ferrihydrite (MAF) gel has improved properties in terms of handling and even distribution of Amberlite in the gel. The elution efficiencies of the MAF gel for K and P were 90% and 96%, respectively. The diffusion coefficient of K through the diffusive gel was 1.30 × 10(-5)cm(2)s(-1) at 22 ± 1°C and was stable through time. Since ferrihydrite is already used in DGT P testing, the ability of the MAF gel to assess available P simultaneously was also assessed. The MAF gel performed the same as the traditional ferrihydrite gel for available P assessment in a wide variety of agricultural soils. This means that the newly developed gel has the potential to measure K and plant-available P in soils simultaneously.