Reviews and syntheses: Ironing out wrinkles in the soil phosphorus cycling paradigm

Curt A. McConnell, Jason P. Kaye, Armen R. Kemanian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Soil phosphorus (P) management remains a critical challenge for agriculture worldwide, and yet we are still unable to predict soil P dynamics as confidently as that of carbon (C) or nitrogen (N). This is due to both the complexity of inorganic P (Pi) and organic P (Po) cycling and the methodological constraints that have limited our ability to trace P dynamics in the soil-plant system. In this review, we describe the challenges for building parsimonious, accurate, and useful biogeochemical models that represent P dynamics and explore the potential of new techniques to usher P biogeochemistry research and modeling forward. We conclude that research efforts should focus on the following: (1) updating the McGill and Cole (1981) model of Po mineralization by clarifying the role and prevalence of biochemical and biological Po mineralization, which we suggest are not mutually exclusive and may co-occur along a continuum of Po substrate stoichiometry; (2) further understanding the dynamics of phytate, a six C compound that can regulate the poorly understood stoichiometry of soil P; (3) exploring the effects of C and Po saturation on P sorption and Po mineralization; and (4) resolving discrepancies between hypotheses about P cycling and the methods used to test these hypotheses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5309-5333
Number of pages25
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 6 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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