Phosphorus (P)-deficiency is a significant challenge for agricultural productivity on many highly P-sorbing weathered and tropical soils throughout the world. On these soils it can be necessary to apply up to five-fold more P as fertiliser than is exported in products. Given the finite nature of global P resources, it is important that such inefficiencies be addressed. For low P-sorbing soils, P-efficient farming systems will also assist attempts to reduce pollution associated with P losses to the environment. P-balance inefficiency of farms is associated with loss of P in erosion, runoff or leaching, uneven dispersal of animal excreta, and accumulation of P as sparingly-available phosphate and organic P in the soil. In many cases it is possible to minimise P losses in runoff or erosion. Uneven dispersal of P in excreta typically amounts to ~5% of P-fertiliser inputs. However, the rate of P accumulation in moderate to highly P-sorbing soils is a major contributor to inefficient P-fertiliser use. We discuss the causal edaphic, plant and microbial factors in the context of soil P management, P cycling and productivity goals of farms. Management interventions that can alter P-use efficiency are explored, including better targeted P-fertiliser use, organic amendments, removing other constraints to yield, zone management, use of plants with low critical-P requirements, and modified farming systems. Higher productivity in low-P soils, or lower P inputs in fertilised agricultural systems can be achieved by various interventions, but it is also critically important to understand the agroecology of plant P nutrition within farming systems for improvements in P-use efficiency to be realised.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Soil Science
- Plant Science