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RESEARCH ARTICLE

Pronounced surface stratification of soil phosphorus, potassium and sulfur under pastures upstream of a eutrophic wetland and estuarine system

Megan H. Ryan A F , Mark Tibbett B , Hans Lambers A , David Bicknell C , Phillip Brookes D , Edward G. Barrett-Lennard A C , Carlos Ocampo E and Dion Nicol A C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Plant Biology, and Institute of Agriculture, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Hwy, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

B Centre for Agri-Environmental Research, School of Agriculture Policy and Development, University of Reading, Earley Gate, PO Box 237, Reading, RG6 6AR, UK.

C Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, 3 Baron-Hay Court, South Perth WA, WA 6151, Australia.

D College of Environmental and Resource Sciences, Institute of Soil & Water Resources and Environmental Sciences, Zhejiang University, 866 Yuhangtang Road, Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310058, China.

E School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Hwy, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

F Corresponding author. Email: megan.ryan@uwa.edu.au

Soil Research 55(7) 657-669 https://doi.org/10.1071/SR16144
Submitted: 31 May 2016  Accepted: 31 January 2017   Published: 15 March 2017

Abstract

High concentrations of nutrients in surface soil present a risk of nutrient movement into waterways through surface water pathways and leaching. Phosphorus (P) is of particular concern because of its role in aquatic system eutrophication. We measured nutrients under annual pastures on a beef farm and a dairy farm in the Peel–Harvey catchment, Western Australia. Soils were sampled in 10-mm increments to 100 mm depth in March, June and September. Plant litter contained approximately 300–550 mg kg–1 Colwell-extractable P. Extractable soil P was strongly stratified, being approximately 100–225 mg kg–1 (dairy) and 50–110 mg kg–1 (beef) in the top 10 mm and <40 mg kg–1 at 40–50 mm depth. Total P and extractable potassium were also highly stratified, whereas sulfur was less strongly stratified. Shoot nutrient concentrations indicated that nitrogen was often limiting and sulfur was sometimes limiting for pasture growth: concentrations of P were often much greater than required for adequate growth (>4 mg g–1). We conclude that high P concentrations at the soil surface and in litter and shoots are a source of risk for movement of P from farms into waterways in the Peel–Harvey catchment.

Additional keywords: eutrophication, nutrient stratification, organic matter, pH, surface soil.


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