Review of Australian phosphate rock research

M.D.A. Bolland, D.C. Lewis, Robert Gilkes, L.J. Hamilton

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    33 Citations (Scopus)


    Most of the research on the effectiveness of phosphorus (P) fertilisers in Australia has involved comparing phosphate rock (PR) or partially acidulated PR (PAPR) with superphosphate (SP) or other water-soluble P fertilisers. There are many estimates of effectiveness (current relative effectiveness or CRE) which compared freshly-applied (current) PR and freshly-applied (current) SP. The CRE values for PR range from 5.5) with low pH buffering capacities and they cannot quickly contribute a large supply of hydrogen ions to promote rapid dissolution of PR. Soils are commonly sandy and have low water-holding capacities; in the strongly seasonal Mediterranean climate of southwestern and southern Australia, the fertilised surface soil rapidly dries between rains thereby restricting PR dissolution. This restricted dissolution contributes to the poor agronomic effectiveness of PR fertilisers. Studies in Western Australia have shown that the effectiveness of current and residual PR relative to current SP generally decreases with increasing level of application. Therefore, relative to current SP, PR fertilisers become less effective per unit of PR as more is applied to the soil. Consequently, PR fertilisers frequently cannot support the same maximum yield as current SP.Published work indicates that PR fertilisers cannot be regarded as economic substitutes for SP for most agricultural applications in Australia. However, much Australian research has used low reactive PRs in conditions that are not likely to favour even highly reactive PRs. The soils dry out between rains during the growing season and have insufficient hydrogen ions to cause rapid, extensive dissolution of even reactive PR. Research elsewhere has suggested that reactive apatite PRs can be as effective as SP for suitable soils and environments. These are soils that remain wet for the whole growing season and which contain sufficient hydrogen ions to cause rapid dissolution of reactive PR. Laboratory studies, in which there is no P leaching, on 254 different soils collected from throughout southwestern Australia showed that 29 soils, all collected from >800 mm average annual rainfall areas, dissolved >40% highly reactive North Carolina PR, suggesting that in the field these soils could be suitable for highly reactive PRs. Insufficient research has been conducted in the high rainfall areas of Australia, where the environment is more likely to favour highly reactive PR, and PAPR made from highly reactive PR. Therefore, a national program was undertaken in 6 Australian states to identify circumstances under which PRs, including reactive PR and PAPR made from reactive PR, may be economic fertilisers for acidic soils in the high rainfall areas of Australia where agricultural production is largely based on pasture production.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)845-859
    JournalCrop and Pasture Science
    Publication statusPublished - 1997


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