Soil type and moisture affects pathways, forms and rates.pdf (149.51 kB)

The effect of soil moisture extremes on the pathways and forms of phosphorus lost in runoff from two contrasting soil types

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-03, 16:43 authored by Bernard Simmonds, Richard McDowell, Leo Condron
Soil moisture and Olsen P concentrations play an important role in phosphorus (P) losses in runoff. Under moisture-rich anaerobic conditions, the reduction of Fe-oxides dissolves P from the soil into solution that may be available for loss by transport processes. Under very dry conditions, soil hydrophobicity induced by soil organic C can exacerbate infiltration-excess surface flow and soil erosion. Our hypotheses were as follows: (1) rainfall applied to a dry soil would cause greater particulate P losses in surface runoff due to hydrophobicity; (2) P losses from a wet soil would be dominated by drainage and filtered P; and (3) both runoff processes would result in environmentally unacceptable P losses at agronomically productive Olsen P concentrations depending on the sorption capacity (anion storage capacity; ASC) of the soil. Superphosphate was added to a Brown and Organic soil (Olsen P initially 7 and 13 mg L–1 respectively) to create a range of Olsen P concentrations. Soils were placed in boxes, soil moisture adjusted (<10% or 90% available water holding capacity) and artificial rainfall applied at a rate equivalent to a storm event (5-year return interval; 30–35mmh–1) and surface runoff and drainage collected. Surface runoff was measured as infiltration-excess surface flow from dry Organic soil (water drop penetration time >3600 s), and as saturation-excess surface flow from the wet Brown soil (water drop penetration time <5 s). Total P (TP) concentrations in surface flow from both soils increased linearly with Olsen P concentration. Compared with dry Organic soil, the wet Brown soil lost a greater proportion of TP as particulate via surface runoff. However, due to the high hydraulic conductivity and low ASC, the most important pathway for the Organic soil, wet or dry, was filtered P loss in drainage. These data can be used to more effectively target strategies to mitigate P losses.


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© CSIRO 2017


  • English

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CSIRO Publishing

Journal title

Soil Research




Simmonds, B., McDowell, R. W., & Condron, L. M. (2016). The effect of soil moisture extremes on the pathways and forms of phosphorus lost in runoff from two contrasting soil types. Soil Research, 55(1), 19–27. doi:10.1071/SR15324


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