Phosphorus sources and management in organic production systems

Nathan O. Nelson, Rhonda R. Janke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

53 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Organically produced fruit and vegetables are among the fastest growing agricultural markets. With greater demand for organically grown produce, more farmers are considering organic production options. Furthermore, there is an increasing interest in maintaining optimal production in an organic system, which involves appropriate nutrient management. The objectives of this review were to summarize the current state of our knowledge concerning effects of organic production systems on phosphorus (P) availability, describe P availability in common organically accepted P sources, and review best management practices that can reduce environmental risks associated with P management in organic systems. Organic production systems seek to improve soil organic matter and biological diversity, which may impact P cycling and P uptake by crops. Increases in organic matter will be accompanied by an increase in the organic P pool. Furthermore, management of cover crops and potentially enhanced arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi colonization from organic production practices can increase the availability of soil P pool (both organic and inorganic) by stimulating microbial activity and release of root exudates. This can help compensate for low soil P, but will not supersede the need to replace P removed by the harvested crop. Phosphorus fertilization in organic production systems entails balancing the P inputs with crop removal through selection and management of both nitrogen (N) and P inputs. Organic production systems that rely on manure or composts for meeting crop N demand will likely have a P surplus; therefore, P deficiencies will not be an issue. Systems using other N sources may have a P deficit, therefore requiring P supplementation for optimal plant growth. In such situations, maintenance P applications equal to crop removal should be made based on soil test recommendations. Primary organically approved P sources are phosphate rock (PR), manure, and compost. Phosphate rock is most effective at supplying P in soils with low pH (less than 5.5) and low calcium concentrations. Phosphate rock applications made to soils with pH greater than 5.5 may not be effective because of reduced PR solubility. Manure- and compost-based P has high plant availability, ranging from 70% to 100% available. Use of manures and composts requires extra considerations to reduce the risk of P loss from P sources to surface waters. Best management practices (BMPs) for reducing source P losses are incorporation of the manures or composts and timing applications to correspond to periods of low runoff risk based on climatic conditions. Organic production systems that use manures and composts as their primary N source should focus on minimizing P buildup in the soils and use of management practices that reduce the risks of P loss to surface waters. Evaluation of P loss risk with a P index will assist in identification of soil and management factors likely to contribute to high P loss as well as BMPs that can decrease P loss risks. BMPs should focus on controlling both particulate and dissolved P losses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)442-454
Number of pages13
JournalHortTechnology
Volume17
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007

Fingerprint

organic production
production technology
phosphorus
animal manures
composts
best management practices
rock phosphate
soil
crops
surface water
soil organic matter
application timing
root exudates
nutrient management
cover crops
surpluses
microbial activity
mycorrhizal fungi
solubility
runoff

Keywords

  • Bone meal
  • Compost
  • Cover crops
  • Environmental protection
  • Eutrophication
  • Green manure
  • Manure
  • Mycorrhiza
  • Organic agriculture
  • Rock phosphate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Horticulture

Cite this

Phosphorus sources and management in organic production systems. / Nelson, Nathan O.; Janke, Rhonda R.

In: HortTechnology, Vol. 17, No. 4, 10.2007, p. 442-454.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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