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Effect of low-molecular weight organic acids on phosphorus release and phytoavailabilty of phosphorus in phosphate rocks added to soils

Kpomblekou-A, K., Tabatabai, M.A.
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2003 v.100 no.2-3 pp. 275-284
Zea mays, calcium, chemical treatment, citric acid, corn, correlation, crop production, developing countries, greenhouses, metabolites, pH, phosphorus, phosphorus fertilizers, plant exudates, rocks, soil, soil fertility, solubility, sulfuric acid, Florida, North Carolina
Phosphorus (P) is critically needed to improve soil fertility in many parts of the world. The use of water-soluble P fertilizers, e.g., single super-phosphate and triple super-phosphate in developing countries to improve crop production has been limited primarily by their high cost. The presence of indigenous phosphate deposits in some countries provides an incentive for direct application or local chemical treatment at low cost to improve the solubility of low reactive phosphate rocks (PRs). The use of naturally occurring low-molecular weight organic acids (LMWOAs) that are produced in soil as microbial metabolites or plant exudates from dead or living cells represents a new perspective in PR research. The LMWOAs contain various functional groups that may play a significant role in PR dissolution. Little information is available, however, about the potential of LMWOAs in releasing P from PRs. This study reports P release from 12 PRs, four each of low, medium, and high reactivity, obtained from various deposits (Kodjari, Tahoua, North Carolina, Gafsa, Khouribga, Tilemsi Valley, Central Florida, Sechura, Minjingu, North Florida, Hahotoe, and Parc W) using nine LMWOAs containing mono-, di-, and tri-carboxylic groups and a mineral acid (H2SO4). Laboratory studies showed that the organic acids are effective in releasing P from low and medium reactive PRs, but very ineffective in releasing P from high reactive PRs. The average amounts of P released by all the organic acids from the three types of PRs were 65.5 mmol kg-1 PR from the low reactive PRs, 55.1 mmol kg-1 from the medium, and 11.1 mmol kg-1 from the high; those released from across all the PRs were 21.9 by the mono-carboxylic acid group, 54.2 by the di-carboxylic acid group, and 57.0 mmol P kg-1 by the tri-carboxylic acid group. The P released was negatively correlated with the equilibrium pH, but positively correlated with Ca released from the PRs. Laboratory incubation studies on the release of P from PRs added to soils with or without organic acids and incubated at 25 °C for 15, 30, and 45 days showed that the percentage of plant-available P released varied considerably from 0.95 in the Kodjari PR to 40.1% in the North Carolina PR and was related to PR reactivity. A greenhouse study with corn (Zea mays L.) grown for 60 days on soils treated with PRs or with PRs mixed with organic acids showed that corn response to addition of oxalic or citric acid varied with P rates and PR sources, suggesting that organic acids have potential as amendments for increasing plant-available P in PR-treated soils.