The spatial variability of soil phosphorus- what controls it?

The recently published paper ‘Spatial variability of soil phosphorus in the Fribourg canton, Switzerland’ by Roger et al. (Geoderma, 2014) was discussed at our first meeting.

To summarise, a spatial investigation of the different phosphorus forms (total, organic and available) across 250 sites (FRIBO network) was carried out. Their results suggested that within agricultural soils the highest mean values of available P were found in cropland (2.12-81.3mg kg-1), whilst mean total P values were found to be most abundant in permanent grasslands (1186 mg kg-1).  It was also suggested that available P appeared more sensitive to extrinsic factors (land use) than total P. They also suggested that the study in China by Liu et al. (Geoderma, 2013) reinforced their hypothesis that environmental conditions (such as temperature and precipitation) have less of an impact than farming practices (e.g. fertilisation), which leads to this difference in P abundance among land use. But what do you think??

This study is another, however, that highlights the importance of ‘legacy P’ (historic land use) when attempting to tackle the diffuse agricultural P pollution problem. Perhaps we may ask whether these results are the same in other systems? This study may be a coarse resolution, but is geostatistics a positive way forward? And can we use this information to move forward – will it call for more localised policies and practices?


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