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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2013

Topsoil and Subsoil Properties Influence Phosphorus Leaching from Four Agricultural Soils

Andersson, Helena; Bergström, Lars; Djodjic, Faruk; Ulen, Barbro; Kirchmann, Holger


Eutrophication, a major problem in many fresh and brackish waters, is largely caused by nonpoint-source pollution by P from agricultural soils. This lysimeter study examined the influence of P content, physical properties, and sorption characteristics in topsoil and subsoil on P leaching measured during 21 mo in 1-m-long, undisturbed soil columns of two clay and two sandy soils. Total P losses during the period varied between 0.65 and 7.40 kg ha(-1). Dissolved reactive P was the dominant form in leachate from the sandy soils and one clay soil, varying from 48 to 76%. Particulate P dominated in leachate from the other clay soil, where low pH (5.2) in the subsoil decreased aggregate stability and thereby probably increased the dispersion of clay particles. Phosphorus leaching was small from soils with high P sorption index (PSI) and low P saturation (<10% of PSI) in the subsoil, even though extractable P (Olsen P) in the topsoil was high, and large from a soil with low sorption capacity and high P saturation (>35% of PSI) in the profile. High sorption capacity in the subsoil was more important for P leaching in sandy soils than in clay soils with macropore flow, where the effect of high sorption capacity was reduced due to less interaction between percolating water and the soil matrix. The results suggest that P leaching is greatly affected by subsoil properties and that topsoil studies, which dominate current research, are insufficient for assessing P leaching in many soils.

Published in

Journal of Environmental Quality
2013, Volume: 42, number: 2, pages: 455-463