Strategies and agronomic interventions to improve the phosphorus-use efficiency of farming systems

Richard J. Simpson, Astrid Oberson, Richard A. Culvenor, Megan H. Ryan, Erik J. Veneklaas, Hans Lambers, Jonathan P. Lynch, Peter R. Ryan, Emmanuel Delhaize, F. Andrew Smith, Sally E. Smith, Paul R. Harvey, Alan E. Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

348 Scopus citations


Phosphorus (P)-deficiency is a significant challenge for agricultural productivity on many highly P-sorbing weathered and tropical soils throughout the world. On these soils it can be necessary to apply up to five-fold more P as fertiliser than is exported in products. Given the finite nature of global P resources, it is important that such inefficiencies be addressed. For low P-sorbing soils, P-efficient farming systems will also assist attempts to reduce pollution associated with P losses to the environment. P-balance inefficiency of farms is associated with loss of P in erosion, runoff or leaching, uneven dispersal of animal excreta, and accumulation of P as sparingly-available phosphate and organic P in the soil. In many cases it is possible to minimise P losses in runoff or erosion. Uneven dispersal of P in excreta typically amounts to ~5% of P-fertiliser inputs. However, the rate of P accumulation in moderate to highly P-sorbing soils is a major contributor to inefficient P-fertiliser use. We discuss the causal edaphic, plant and microbial factors in the context of soil P management, P cycling and productivity goals of farms. Management interventions that can alter P-use efficiency are explored, including better targeted P-fertiliser use, organic amendments, removing other constraints to yield, zone management, use of plants with low critical-P requirements, and modified farming systems. Higher productivity in low-P soils, or lower P inputs in fertilised agricultural systems can be achieved by various interventions, but it is also critically important to understand the agroecology of plant P nutrition within farming systems for improvements in P-use efficiency to be realised.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-120
Number of pages32
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Dec 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science


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