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Predicting the response of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) to liquid and granular phosphorus fertilisers in Australian soils

T. M. McBeath A H , M. J. McLaughlin A B , R. D. Armstrong C , M. Bell D , M. D. A. Bolland E , M. K. Conyers F , R. E. Holloway G and S. D. Mason A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Soil and Land Systems, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, PMB 1, Waite Campus, Glen Osmond, SA 5064, Australia.

B CSIRO Land and Water, PMB 2, Glen Osmond, SA 5064, Australia.

C Department of Primary Industries, PMB 260, Horsham, Vic. 3400, Australia.

D Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, PO Box 23, Kingaroy, Qld, 4610, Australia.

E Department of Agriculture and Food, PO Box 1231, Bunbury, WA 6231, Australia.

F EH Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Pine Gully Road, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650, Australia.

G ARRIS, PO Box 23 Highgate, SA 5063, Australia.

H Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Soil Research 45(6) 448-458
Submitted: 11 April 2007  Accepted: 27 August 2007   Published: 20 September 2007


Liquid forms of phosphorus (P) have been shown to be more effective than granular P for promoting cereal growth in alkaline soils with high levels of free calcium carbonate on Eyre Peninsula, South Australia. However, the advantage of liquid over granular P forms of fertiliser has not been fully investigated across the wide range of soils used for grain production in Australia.

A glasshouse pot experiment tested if liquid P fertilisers were more effective for growing spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) than granular P (monoammonium phosphate) in 28 soils from all over Australia with soil pH (H2O) ranging from 5.2 to 8.9. Application of liquid P resulted in greater shoot biomass, as measured after 4 weeks’ growth (mid to late tillering, Feeks growth stage 2–3), than granular P in 3 of the acidic to neutral soils and in 3 alkaline soils. Shoot dry matter responses of spring wheat to applied liquid or granular P were related to soil properties to determine if any of the properties predicted superior yield responses to liquid P. The calcium carbonate content of soil was the only soil property that significantly contributed to predicting when liquid P was more effective than granular P.

Five soil P test procedures (Bray, Colwell, resin, isotopically exchangeable P, and diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT)) were assessed to determine their ability to measure soil test P on subsamples of soil collected before the experiment started. These soil test values were then related to the dry matter shoot yields to assess their ability to predict wheat yield responses to P applied as liquid or granular P. All 5 soil test procedures provided a reasonable prediction of dry matter responses to applied P as either liquid or granular P, with the resin P test having a slightly greater predictive capacity on the range of soils tested.

The findings of this investigation suggest that liquid P fertilisers do have some potential applications in non-calcareous soils and confirm current recommendations for use of liquid P fertiliser to grow cereal crops in highly calcareous soils. Soil P testing procedures require local calibration for response to the P source that is going to be used to amend P deficiency.

Additional keyword: fluid fertilisers.


The support of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (UA0081) is gratefully acknowledged. Caroline Johnston, Mike Williams, George Pollard, Anna McBeath, and Graeme Schwenke provided technical assistance.


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