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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Phosphorus speciation in cultivated organic soils revealed by P K-edge XANES spectroscopy

Schmieder, Frank; Gustafsson, Jon Petter; Klysubun, Wantana; Zehetner, Franz; Riddle, Matthew; Kirchmann, Holger; Bergstrom, Lars


Cultivated organic soils make a significant contribution to phosphorus (P) leaching losses from agricultural land, despite occupying a small proportion of cultivated area. However, less is known about P mobilisation processes and the P forms present in peat soils compared with mineral soils. In this study, P forms and their distribution with depth were investigated in two cultivated Histosol profiles, using a combination of wet chemical extraction and P K-edge X-ray absorption near-edge structure (XANES) spectroscopy.Both profiles had elevated P content in the topsoil, amounting to around 40 mmol kg(-1), and P speciation in both profiles was strongly dominated by organic P. Topsoils were particularly rich in organic P (P-org), with relative proportions of up to 80%. Inorganic P in the profiles was almost exclusively adsorbed to surface reactive aluminium (Al) and iron (Fe) minerals. In one of the pro-files, small contributions of Ca-phosphates were detected.A commonly used P saturation index (PSI) based on ammonium-oxalate extraction indicated a low to moderate risk of P leaching from both profiles. However, the capacity of soil Al and Fe to retain P in organic soils could be reduced by high competition from organic compounds for sorption sites. This is not directly accounted for in PSI and similar indices.Accumulation of P-org in the topsoil may be attributable by microbial peat decomposition and transformation of mineral fertiliser P by both microbiota and crops. Moreover, high carbon-phosphorus ratio in the surface peat material in both profiles suggests reduced net mineralisation of P-org in the two soils. However, advancing microbial peat decomposition will eventually lead to complete loss of peat horizons and to mineralisation of P-org. Hence, P-org in both profiles represents a huge potentially mobilised P pool.


Histosol; organic phosphorus; phosphorus saturation; soil aluminium; soil iron; X-ray absorption spectroscopy

Published in

Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science
2020, Volume: 183, number: 3, pages: 367-381