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Transforming soil phosphorus fertility management strategies to support the delivery of multiple ecosystem services from agricultural systems

Katrina A. Macintosh, Donnacha G. Doody, Paul J.A. Withers, Richard W. McDowell, Douglas R. Smith, Laura T. Johnson, Tom W. Bruulsema, Vincent O'Flaherty, John W. McGrath
Science of the total environment 2019 v.649 pp. 90-98
crop yield, ecosystem services, farmers, issues and policy, landscapes, models, phosphorus, soil, stakeholders
Despite greater emphasis on holistic phosphorus (P) management, current nutrient advice delivered at farm-scale still focuses almost exclusively on agricultural production. This limits our ability to address national and international strategies for the delivery of multiple ecosystem services (ES). Currently there is no operational framework in place to manage P fertility for multiple ES delivery and to identify the costs of potentially sacrificing crop yield and/or quality. As soil P fertility plays a central role in ES delivery, we argue that soil test phosphorus (STP) concentration provides a suitable common unit of measure by which delivering multiple ES can be economically valued relative to maximum potential yield, in $ ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹ units. This value can then be traded, or payments made against one another, at spatio-temporal scales relevant for farmer and national policy objectives. Implementation of this framework into current P fertility management strategies would allow for the integration and interaction of different stakeholder interests in ES delivery on-farm and in the wider landscape. Further progress in biophysical modeling of soil P dynamics is needed to inform its adoption across diverse landscapes.