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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 34 No. 6, p. 1958-1963
    Received: Jan 24, 2005

    * Corresponding author(s): fmagdoff@uvm.edu
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Autoclaving Soil Samples Affects Algal-Available Phosphorus

  1. Brandon H. Anderson and
  2. Frederick R. Magdoff *
  1. Department of Plant and Soil Science, University of Vermont, 105 Carrigan Drive, Burlington, VT 05405


Unwanted microbial interference in samples used for biological assays of P availability has routinely been eliminated by autoclaving samples before inoculation with algae. Twenty-three soils were selected to evaluate the relationship between algal growth in P-deficient solutions containing small quantities of soil and the level of P determined by a variety of tests used to evaluate P availability in soils and sediments. Soils were either autoclaved or not before addition to flasks containing P-starved algae in a nutrient solution without P. Compared to non-autoclaved samples, autoclaving soil resulted in approximately 60% more available P as estimated by increased algal growth. However, algal growth in the presence of autoclaved soil was highly correlated with growth in the presence of non-autoclaved samples. There was no consistent change in the correlations (r) between autoclaving or non-autoclaving samples in the relationships of algal numbers with P extracted by a number of soil tests. The effect of autoclaving soil on soluble P was also evaluated for a subset of six soils. Autoclaved soils had significantly greater concentrations of soluble P than non-autoclaved soils, with 78% more orthophosphate monoesters, 60% more orthophosphate diesters, and 54% more soluble inorganic P. Inhibition of algal growth may have occurred with two high-Zn soils that produced relatively low numbers of algae despite being very high in estimated available P by all extraction methods. Removing those samples from the calculations dramatically improved correlations between soil P measured by various methods and algal growth. With these two soils removed from calculations, algal growth with autoclaved soil was most highly correlated with Olsen P (r = 0.95), with other correlations as follows: Fe-oxide strip (r = 0.80), Mehlich 3 (r = 0.75,), modified Morgan (r = 0.61), and Bray–Kurtz 1 (r = 0.57).

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Copyright © 2005. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyASA, CSSA, SSSA