Estimating source coefficients for phosphorus site indices

H. A. Elliott, R. C. Brandt, P. J.A. Kleinman, A. N. Sharpley, D. B. Beegle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Phosphorus release to runoff varies widely for different land-applied organic P sources even when spread at equivalent total P rates. To address this variability, some P site indices include tabulated P source coefficients (PSCs) for differential weighting of applied P materials based on their runoff enrichment potential. Because runoff P can vary widely even within source categories depending on composition, storage, and treatment differences, this study explored a method for estimating PSCs based on the water-extractable P (WEP) content of the applied amendment. Using seven published rainfall-runoff studies that followed National Phosphorus Research Project protocols, runoff dissolved P (RDP) was correlated (r2 = 0.80) with WEP for multiple surface-applied manures and biosolids. Assuming amendments with WEP ≥ 10 g kg-1 behave as highly soluble P sources and have a maximum PSC of 1.0, an empirical equation was developed for computing source-specific PSCs from laboratory-determined WEP values [PSC = 0.102 X WEP0.99]. For two independent runoff experiments, correlations between RDP loss and P source loading rate were improved when loading rates were multiplied by the computed (r2 = 0.73-0.86) versus generic (r2 = 0.45-0.48) PSCs. Source-specific PSCs should enhance the ability of assessment tools to identify vulnerable sites and P loss management alternatives, although the exact inclusion process depends on index scaling and conceptual framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2195-2201
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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