Struvite: a slow-release fertiliser for sustainable phosphorus management?

Peter J. Talboys, James Heppell, Tiina Roose, John R. Healey, Davey L. Jones, Paul J.A. Withers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

241 Citations (Scopus)


Background and aim: Recycled sources of phosphorus (P), such as struvite extracted from wastewater, have potential to substitute for more soluble manufactured fertilisers and help reduce the long-term threat to food security from dwindling finite reserves of phosphate rock (PR). This study aimed to determine whether struvite could be a component of a sustainable P fertiliser management strategy for arable crops. Methods: A combination of laboratory experiments, pot trials and mathematical modelling of the root system examined the P release properties of commercial fertiliser-grade struvite and patterns of P uptake from a low-P sandy soil by two different crop types, in comparison to more soluble inorganic P fertilisers (di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) and triple super phosphate (TSP)). Results: Struvite had greatly enhanced solubility in the presence of organic acid anions; buckwheat, which exudes a high level of organic acids, was more effective at mobilising struvite P than the low level exuder, spring wheat. Struvite granules placed with the seed did not provide the same rate of P supply as placed DAP granules for early growth of spring wheat, but gave equivalent rates of P uptake, yield and apparent fertiliser recovery at harvest, even though only 26 % of struvite granules completely dissolved. Fertiliser mixes containing struvite and DAP applied to spring wheat have potential to provide both optimal early and late season P uptake and improve overall P use efficiency. Conclusions: We conclude that the potential resource savings and potential efficiency benefits of utilising a recycled slow release fertiliser like struvite offers a more sustainable alternative to only using conventional, high solubility, PR-based fertilisers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-123
Number of pages15
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


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