A novel biologically-based approach to evaluating soil phosphorus availability across complex landscapes

Thomas H. DeLuca, Helen C. Glanville, Matthew Harris, Bridget A. Emmett, Melissa R.A. Pingree, Laura L. de Sosa, Cristina Morenà, Davey L. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Citations (Scopus)


Plants employ a range of strategies to increase phosphorus (P) availability in soil. Current soil P extraction methods (e.g. Olsen P), however, often fail to capture the potential importance of rhizosphere processes in supplying P to the plant. This has led to criticism of these standard approaches, especially in non-agricultural soils of low P status and when comparing soil types across diverse landscapes. Similarly, more complex soil P extraction protocols (e.g. Hedley sequential fractionation) lack functional significance from a plant ecology perspective. In response to this, we present a novel procedure using a suite of established extraction protocols to explore the concept of a protocol that characterizes P pools available via plant and microbial P acquisition mechanisms. The biologically based P (BBP) extraction was conducted by using four extractions in parallel: (1) 10 mM CaCl2 (soluble P); (2) 10 mM citric acid (chelate extractable P); (3) phytase and phosphatase solution (enzyme extractable organic P); (4) 1 M HCl (mineral occluded P). To test the protocol, we conducted the analyses on a total of 204 soil samples collected as part of a UK national ecosystem survey (Countryside Survey) in 1998 and repeated again in 2007. In the survey, Olsen P showed a net decline in national soil P levels during this 10 year period. In agreement with these results, soluble P, citrate extractable P and mineral occluded P were all found to decrease over the 10 year study period. In contrast, enzyme extractable organic P increased over the same period likely due to the accumulation of organic P in the mineral soil. The method illustrates a noted shift in P pools over the 10 year period, but no net loss of P from the system. This new method is simple and inexpensive and therefore has the potential to greatly improve our ability to characterise and understand changes in soil P status across complex landscapes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-119
Number of pages10
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2015
Externally publishedYes


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