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Doctoral thesis, 2014

Phosphorus application strategies in potato

Ekelöf, Joakim


Phosphorus (P) is an essential element that plays an important role in carbohydrate metabolism and energy transfer systems in all plants. Sufficient P supply is therefore essential for providing adequate food, fibre and fuel for society. In potato, P deficiency reduces yield and tuber number due to reduced radiation interception by the canopy. Phosphorus is a limited, non-renewable resource. When lost to water bodies, P causes environmental problems such as eutrophication. Potato fields may be a significant contributor to P loads to water due to high P recommendations and a tendency for P leaching in soils where the P sorption/binding capacity is saturated. Efficient use of P in potato cultivation is therefore crucial in order to reduce P consumption and environmental impacts. The thesis improves the current understanding of potato P requirements as regards optimising P application strategies, use efficiency and potato tuber yield. The results show that split P applications can improve P recovery by 25%, particularly on soils with low P content and low buffering capacity, and can improve physiological P use efficiency (PPUE) where P availability is limiting yield. Irrigation and subsoiling can both significantly improve P recovery, PPUE and yield. Foliar application does not improve PPUE, but can increase P concentration and yield if the plant is supplied with sufficient water. However, foliar P application should not be used as a general strategy, but can be recommended where the soil buffering capacity is extremely high. It is shown in this thesis that many Swedish soils contain sufficient amounts of P to support optimal growth and are no longer responsive to P fertilization. To determine the responsiveness of potato yields to P, data on soil organic material, pH, soil buffering capacity and varietal characteristics are needed, in addition to the amount of P-extractable with ammonium lactate (P-AL value) used in Sweden today. More sophisticated P recommendation models which take these parameters into account are urgently needed. As long as yield effects from P fertilization cannot be predicted, excessive P fertilization will probably continue, resulting in waste of a non-renewable resource, eutrophication of the aquatic environment and reduced farm profits. The findings in this thesis contribute to understanding the complex picture of P acquisition in potato and, hopefully, to more efficient use of the non-renewable P resource.


Inter-row subsoiling; irrigation; starch yield; phosphorus use efficiency; foliar fertilization; phosphate; P-AL; buffering capacity; sorption; Solanum tuberosum

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2014, number: 2014:61
ISBN: 978-91-576-8070-9, eISBN: 978-91-576-8071-6
Publisher: Department of Biosystems and Technology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Ekelöf, Joakim
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Biosystems and Technology (VH), general

UKÄ Subject classification

Soil Science
Agricultural Science

URI (permanent link to this page)