Long-term phosphorus (P) losses and gains in sandy soils continuously fertilized with either ordinary superphosphate or coastal superphosphate (a granulated mixture of superphosphate, rock phosphate and elemental sulfur) or previously fertilized with superphosphate were investigated under leaching conditions in columns in the laboratory. The soils were subjected to 10 consecutive cycles designed to simulate the mediterranean weather conditions in the Harvey region of the Coastal Plain of Western Australia. Each cycle consisted of a wet phase during which the equivalent of 850 mm of rainfall was leached through the soil and a drier phase during which the soil was incubated in the presence of moisture equivalent to summer rainfall (150 mm). Dissolved inorganic P in the leachate was used as a measure of P loss. A sequential fractionation procedure (a resin extraction followed by 0.5 M sodium bicarbonate, 0.1 M sodium hydroxide and 0.1 M sulfuric acid extractions) and total inorganic and organic P were used to measure changes in P levels in the soils.
Phosphorus losses from the previously fertilized soils decreased logarithmically with increasing number of cycles. Total inorganic P and resin-extractable P were able to explain ≥94% of the variation in P losses. Addition of either fertilizer increased the amount of P leached from the soil and 10-40% more P was leached by adding superphosphate rather than coastal superphosphate. The percentage of the cumulative P lost by leaching decreased with increasing application rate of both fertilizers when expressed as a percentage of the cumulative water plus citrate-soluble P added. Addition of either fertilizer increased the amount of acid-extractable P, but coastal superphosphate had a much greater effect than superphosphate. Leaching losses of P were influenced by fertilizer solubility in the short term (< 1 year). In the long term, however, the water plus citrate-insoluble P in the fertilizers also contributed to P losses by leaching.
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