Main content area

Integrating Soil Phosphorus Testing into Environmentally Based Agricultural Management Practices

Sims, J. T., Edwards, A. C., Schoumans, O. F., Simard, R. R.
Journal of environmental quality 2000 v.29 no.1 pp. 60-71
phosphorus, soil analysis, agricultural soils, best management practices
Soil testing has been an accepted agricultural management practice for decades. Interpretations and fertility recommendations based on soil analyses and the information obtained with soil samples on cropping systems, tillage practices, soil types, manure use, and other parameters have contributed to the increased efficiency of agricultural production. Recently, however, analyses of long-term trends in soil test P values have shown that soil P in many areas of the world is now excessive, relative to crop P requirements. The role of P in the eutrophication of surface waters and emerging concerns about the human health impacts of toxic algal/dinoflagellate blooms have heightened public awareness of nonpoint source pollution by agricultural P. The greatest concerns are with animal-based agriculture, where farm and watershed-scale P surpluses and over-application of P to soils are common. The need for nutrient-management plans based on N and P is now an issue of intense debate in the U.S. and Canada. This paper addresses three issues: Should the applications of organic wastes and fertilizers be based on soil P and, if so, what is the most appropriate testing method to assess environmental risk? How can our knowledge of soil P chemistry be integrated with the expertise of hydrologists, agronomists, aquatic ecologists, and others to assess the risks that P in agricultural soils poses to surface waters? And, finally, how can we use soil P testing to evaluate new best management practices (BMPs) now being developed to reduce P transport from soil to water?