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Doctoral thesis, 2014

Mitigation of phosphorus leaching from agricultural soils

Svanbäck, Annika


Phosphorus (P) is an essential element in crop production, but P losses from agricultural soils are a major contributor to surface water eutrophication. This thesis examined the effects of chemical soil properties and soil structure, as governed by agricultural management practices, on P leaching from agricultural soils and how this leaching can be reduced. An initial investigation on the effect of plant-available P concentration in the soil (P-AL) on topsoil P leaching from five soils clearly showed that topsoil P leaching depends not only on P status, but also on other soil characteristics. In three of these soils, increased P leaching after manure application was further amplified by high P-AL, while manure application did not affect topsoil P leaching in the other two soils. In a study assessing different management practices on a clay soil and the possible effect on P losses via tile drains, great spatial variation in P leaching was observed in the field, even though P-AL and discharge volume were relatively uniform across the field. Incorporation of quicklime (CaO) significantly reduced P leaching losses, primarily of particulate P, which was the dominant P form in drainage water. The other management options evaluated (conventional ploughing/shallow tillage; no P application/balanced P application; broadcasting/band spreading of fertilizer P) had no significant effects on P leaching. However, some effects of these management strategies could have been overshadowed by the large spatial variation in the data. Stopping P application and removing soil P with harvested crops (phytomining) showed potential to reduce excessive P levels in soils. After 7-9 years of no P application to the four soils studied, topsoil P-AL was lowered but most soils still had excessive levels. Only one soil, a clay soil with the lowest P-AL value in the study, showed a significant downward trend in leaching of dissolved reactive P. New knowledge outcomes were that: (i) the relationship between P-AL and topsoil P leaching clearly differs between soils, especially after manure application; (ii) incorporation of quicklime is a promising option for reducing P leaching from clay soils; and (iii) high P-AL values and P leaching may be reduced after phytomining, but this mitigation strategy takes a very long time.


phosphorus leaching; mitigation options; soil test P

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2014, number: 2014:36
ISBN: 978-91-576-8020-4, eISBN: 978-91-576-8021-1
Publisher: Department of Soil and Environment, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Svanbäck, Annika
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil and Environment

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
Agricultural Science
Soil Science

URI (permanent link to this page)