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The two main motivations for studying equations which describe adsorption of phosphate are to understand the processes involved, and to summarize many results by a few numbers. If more than one hypothesis about the process is tenable, appropriate statistical procedures should be used both to choose between them and to obtain the best summary of the results with a given equation. Equations most likely to be successful in describing adsorption are those in which the affinity for adsorption decreases as the amount of adsorption increases. This effect is inherent in the process of phosphate adsorption and occurs because specific adsorption of anions increases the negative charge on the adsorbing surface. It is included in the complex equations of Bowden, and in simpler fashion in the Freundlich equation. Because the simpler equation can only approximately describe the true situation, a perfect fit over a wide range of concentrations should not be expected. Equations for which the affinity for adsorption is constant — such as the Langmuir equation — are not consistent with our knowledge of the adsorption process. This difficulty is not avoided by the multi‐surface Langmuir equations: such equations may also be difficult to justify on statistical grounds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-462
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Soil Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1978


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