Selles, F., Campbell, C. A., Zentner, R. P., Curtin, D., James, D. C. and Basnyat, P. 2011. Phosphorus use efficiency and long-term trends in soil available phosphorus in wheat production systems with and without nitrogen fertilizer. Can. J. Soil Sci. 91: 39-52. Efficient use of phosphorus (P) in crop production is important for economic and environmental reasons, and to prolong the life of a limited resource. Short-term studies often show low recovery of fertilizer P, but P use efficiency may be underestimated because the value of residual P in the soil is ignored. Our objective was to determine fertilizer P use efficiency in two wheat production systems [continuous wheat (CW) and a 3-yr rotation of summer fallow-wheat-wheat (FWW)] using data from a 39-yr study (1967-2005) at Swift Current, SK. Each rotation received either P only (P) or nitrogen plus P (NP) fertilizer. Annual grain P removal was monitored (all straw was returned to the soil) and changes in soil available P (0- to 15-cm layer) were measured by the Olsen bicarbonate method. In 1993, subplots which received no additional P were established to evaluate the residual effect of P fertilizer applied in the preceding 27 yr. Where P was applied each year, grain P removal averaged 54 to 78% of fertilizer P, with values as high as 65 to 109% in 1994 to 2005, the period of lowest water deficit. The P-only treatments removed 13% less P in grain, on average, than NP treatments. In the P-nly systems, Olsen P content increased linearly with time, but in the NP systems it reached a maximum after 20-22 yr and then stabilized. The cumulative P balance (fertilizer P minus P removed in grain) accounted for 60% of the variability in Olsen P accumulation over the course of the experiment. In CW, Olsen P content increased by 0.15 kg ha-1 for each kg ha-1 of P added in excess of crop removal. The rate of Olsen P accumulation was greater (0.20 kg ha-1 for each kg ha-1 of excess fertilizer P) in the FWW rotation possibly due to P mineralization during the summer fallow year. When P was withheld between 1994 and 2005, total grain production in the CW rotation was reduced slightly (by 10%), but there was no significant effect on FWW. Crop P removal (1967-2005) where P was withheld in the final 12 yr was equivalent to 105 and 90% of fertilizer P added to the NP and P-only systems, respectively. We concluded that residual P in prairie soils is retained in forms that are available to plants; wheat crops may therefore recover close to 100% of applied fertilizer P given sufficient time.
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