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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract - Nutrition Management & Soil & Plant Analysis

Long-Term Effects of Compost and Cover Crops on Soil Phosphorus in Two California Agroecosystems


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 79 No. 2, p. 688-697
    Received: Sept 18, 2014
    Accepted: Jan 20, 2015
    Published: February 27, 2015

    * Corresponding author(s): gmaltais@stanford.edu
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  1. G. Maltais-Landry *a,
  2. K. Scowb,
  3. E. Brennanc and
  4. P. Vitousekd
  1. a Dep. of Biology Gilbert Hall Stanford University Stanford, CA 94305
    b Dep. of Land, Air, and Water Resources 3236 Plant and Environ. Sci. Building University of California– Davis Davis, CA 95616
    c USDA-ARS U.S. Agricultural Research Station Salinas, CA 93905
    d Dep. of Biology Gilbert Hall Stanford University Stanford, CA 94305


Inefficient P use in agriculture results in soil P accumulation and losses to surrounding ecosystems, highlighting the need to use P inputs more efficiently. Composts reduce the need for mineral fertilizers by recycling P from wastes at the regional scale, whereas cover crops reduce soil P losses and have the potential to increase internal soil P recycling by mobilizing soil P “fixed” from previous P applications. We studied the effects of compost and cover crops on soil P in two California experiments, using one to measure the effects of a single cover crop mixture and composted poultry manure across different management practices, and the second experiment to evaluate how different cover crops (pure grass, pure mustard, or grass-legumes) and yard compost affected soil P dynamics under organic management. We determined changes in soil P dynamics 8 to 18 yr after long-term experiments were established by measuring chloroform-extractable P, P sorption capacity, P saturation, and Hedley fractions. Cover crops generally increased microbial and organic P, whereas amendment with yard compost increased resin, microbial, and organic P, with no impact of cover crops and yard compost on other pools or on P sorption. In contrast, addition of composted poultry manure significantly increased all soil P pools (microbial, organic, and inorganic) and P saturation. Our results suggest a limited, moderate, and strong role of cover crops, yard compost, and composted poultry manure, respectively, in affecting soil P in California agroecosystems.

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