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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2015

The Role of Subsoil as a Source or Sink for Phosphorus Leaching

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


The importance of subsoil features for phosphorus (P) leaching is frequently mentioned, but subsoil effects are still poorly documented. This study examined whether the subsoil of four agricultural Swedish soils (two sand and two clay) functioned as a source or sink for P leaching by measuring P leaching from intact soil columns with topsoil (1.05 m deep) and without topsoil (0.77 m deep) over 3 yr. One sandy soil with high topsoil P content (Olsen P, 84 mg kg(-1)) and high subsoil sorption capacity (P sorption index [PSI], 3.7 mmol kg(-1)) had low leaching of dissolved reactive P (DRP) from full-length and subsoil lysimeters (0.12 and 0.08 kg ha(-1) yr(-1), respectively). The other sandy soil, with high Olsen P content in the topsoil and subsoil (27 and 19 mg kg(-1), respectively) and low PSI in the subsoil (1.4 mmol kg(-1)), had high DRP leaching from full-length and subsoil lysimeters (3.33 and 3.29 kg ha(-1) yr(-1), respectively). High P content at depth (Olsen P, 21 mg kg(-1)) in one clay soil resulted in relatively higher subsoil DRP contribution (89%) to total leaching than observed in the other clay soil (71%). These results indicate that the subsoil can act as source or sink for P leaching, depending on P content, degree of P saturation, and P sorption capacity, and therefore subsoil properties should be considered when selecting mitigation measures to reduce P leaching.

Published in

Journal of Environmental Quality
2015, Volume: 44, number: 2, pages: 535-544