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Subsoil phosphorus is affected by fertilization regime in long‐term agricultural experimental trials

Bauke, S. L., von Sperber, C., Tamburini, F., Gocke, M. I., Honermeier, B., Schweitzer, K., Baumecker, M., Don, A., Sandhage‐Hofmann, A., Amelung, W.
European journal of soil science 2018 v.69 no.1 pp. 103-112
NPK fertilizers, enzyme activity, fertilizer application, hydrochloric acid, minerals, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphates, phosphorus, phosphorus fertilizers, sandy soils, topsoil
Arable subsoils store large amounts of phosphorus (P); however, it is unclear to what extent, and under which conditions, subsoil resources might supplement crop P acquisition. Here, we hypothesized that (i) insufficient supply of P in topsoil promotes P acquisition from subsoil and (ii) subsoil P cycling is regulated by nitrogen (N) supply. We sampled two German long‐term fertilizer trials in Thyrow (sandy soil) and Gießen (loamy‐clayey soil) to 100‐cm depth. Treatments received either NPK, NK or PK fertilizer for > 60 years. We assessed soil inorganic (Pᵢ) and organic (Pₒ) P pools following Hedley sequential extraction, and the oxygen isotopic composition of HCl‐extractable phosphate (δ¹⁸OHCₗ‐P), which differentiates P from primary and secondary (previously biologically cycled) minerals. We found that in the Hedley sequential extraction subsoil resin‐P stocks (30–100 cm) in NK plots were 60% (Thyrow) and 8% (Gießen) less than those in NPK plots. Subsoil HCl Pᵢ stocks in NK exceeded those of NPK plots by 70% in Thyrow, but not in Gießen. The NK treatments showed significantly smaller subsoil δ¹⁸OHCₗ‐P values than NPK treatments, indicating a predominance of primary (not biologically cycled) minerals and refuting our hypothesis that P deficiency promotes P acquisition from primary minerals. Under N‐limiting conditions, subsoil resin‐P stocks exceeded those under NPK fertilizer by 117% (Thyrow) and 22% (Gießen), supporting our second hypothesis. We conclude that an efficient use of subsoil P resources is achieved only when nutrient supply in arable topsoils is sufficient. HIGHLIGHTS: Long‐term N and P fertilization promotes use of P from subsoil (> 30-cm depth) Subsoil stocks of resin P were less in NK than NPK fertilized plots Elevated δ¹⁸OHCₗ‐P in the subsoil of NPK plots indicates effects by enzymatic activity Small δ¹⁸OHCₗ‐P values in the subsoil of NK plots indicate a predominance of primary minerals