Today’s growing global population and climate changes point to the inevitable need for sustainable intensification of agriculture. As a result, it is important to better understand how agricultural activities affect elemental budgets in soils, especially those of inorganic nutrients including the increasingly scarce phosphorous (P). Little research has been done to characterize long-term soil P dynamics within a broader context of soil development. This study used the geochemical normalization method to assess long-term losses or gains of P via chemical weathering vs. agricultural activities. The data show that P is depleted in soils relative to parent material in grassland systems, while in the agriculturally managed systems the degrees of the depletions are substantially less. This suggests that fertilizer inputs of P have replenished some of the weathering losses of these elements that had occurred before agricultural management was in place. The data also show significant impacts of agricultural erosion on the P elemental budget, which results in greater topographic variation in soil P in agricultural landscapes than in grasslands. These findings can be used to inform sustainable management of a soil’s elemental composition, especially that of residual P in the context of natural P leaching and declining mineral P resources.
This research was supported by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).
How do different management histories influence a soil's phosphorous budget?.
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