The Science of the total environment

Dissolved reactive phosphorus played a limited role in phosphorus transport via runoff, throughflow and leaching on contrasting cropping soils from southwest Australia.

PMID 27707666


Phosphorus (P) lost from agricultural land by erosion, runoff, throughflow and leaching is of major concern for water resource managers worldwide. Previous study on soils from cropping land of southwest Western Australia suggested P loss as dissolved unreactive P (DURP) via leaching, but the implications for processes and rates of P transport in soils are not known. Two contrasting soil profiles (sand and loam) from cropping land of southwest Western Australia were exposed to artificial rain in packed boxes and field runoff plots to examine P forms and fluxes in runoff, throughflow, leachate and soil solution after three P rates of application (equivalent to 0, 20 and 40kg P/ha). Solutions were analyzed for total P (TP), dissolved reactive P (DRP) and total dissolved P (TDP). Particulate P (PP) and DURP were calculated by subtracting DRP from TP and TDP respectively. In the sand profile, about 90% or more of P losses via runoff and leachate were in DURP and PP forms, whereas DRP was a minor contributor. Phosphorus load in soil solution, throughflow, leachate and run-off increased with increasing P rate. The relatively higher affinity of soil for DRP compared to DURP might cause the latter to be more mobile through profile in association with colloidal compounds <0.2μm. Higher PP concentration for loam soil via throughflow is exacerbated by dispersed clay, which could be an additional process influencing P mobility in loam and duplex soils. The DRP played a limited role in P transport compared to PP and DURP that both appeared to be associated with soil particles or soil colloids in runoff, throughflow, leachate and soil solution. Further characterization of the latter forms of P is needed so that management practices can be developed to minimize P losses.