Title page for ETD etd-02202009-042129

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Miller, Bradley W
Author's Email Address bwmillergk@hotmail.com
URN etd-02202009-042129
Title Long-term Effects of Fertilization on Phosphorus Biogeochemical Pools in Forest Soils
Degree PhD
Department Forestry
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Fox, Thomas R. Committee Chair
Allen, H. Lee Committee Member
Aust, Wallace Michael Committee Member
Burger, James A. Committee Member
Sanchez, Felipe G. Committee Member
Zelazny, Lucian W. Committee Member
  • rhizosphere
  • organic phosphorus
  • ectomycorrhiza
  • oxalate
Date of Defense 2009-02-02
Availability restricted
Southern pines are typically limited by nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) availability in the soil environment. While the absolute quantities of P in forests soils may be large, the concentration of inorganic P in the soil solution is typically very small (&60; 0.01 mg L&178;-1). A onetime application of just 56 kg P ha&178;-1 can substantially increase growth of pine stands over a 20 year rotation (Pritchett and Comerford, 1982&59; Allen et al., 1990). Phosphorus fertilization of Pinus radiata in New Zealand has also shown long-term effects on labile P pools in the soil which improved stand growth during the subsequent rotations (Ballard, 1978&59; Gentle et al., 1986). Identifying and quantifying the biologically available P pools in the soil environment will help foresters in making site-specific P fertilizer prescriptions.

I examined soil phosphorus pools using the Hedley sequential fractionation procedure and Mehlich-3 soil tests in a long-term loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) fertilization trial from four sites in the Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains. After 22 years, fertilization effects were limited to the surface depths. Mehlich-3 extractable P was largest in the soil surface (0-10 cm) of the fertilized treatments plots. Hedley labile and moderately labile P pools were also largest in the soil surface and decreased with depth.

Results from the Hedley fractionation procedure suggested that the Virginia site has a large pool of organic P in the soil surface. Organic P pools can represent 20-90&37; of the total P present in most mineral soils increasing with the age of the soil (Condron et al., 2005). This increase in organic P pool suggests that biological cycling becomes more important as the stand develops (Wells and Jorgensen 1975). I used solution 31P nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to characterize organic P extracted with NaOH-EDTA in the surface of a Paleaquults from coastal Virginia. Total NaOH-EDTA extractable P was significantly larger in the fertilized treatment. Concentrations ranged from 0.1 mg P L&178;-1 in the control plots to 5.1 mg P L&178;-1 in fertilized plots. The surface soils in both treatments were dominated by inorganic orthophosphate. Monoester P compounds were the only organic P compounds detected and were present in very low quantities.

The significant increase of NaOH/EDTA extractable P in the soil surface of the VA site suggested there has been a beneficial long-term effect of fertilization similar to the observations from the Mehlich-3 soil test. Results from oxalate loading experiments on ligand exchangeable versus dissolvable P pools in the bulk soil suggested that the long-term effect of P fertilization increased oxalate dissolvable P pools.

Plants and microbes have evolved a variety of mechanisms to increase P uptake in low P soil environments. These mechanisms include changes in root morphology and architecture, preferential root growth into high P microsites, the secretion of low-molecular-mass organic acids (LMMOA), and uptake via symbiotic relationships (Fox and Comerford, 1992b&59; Raghothama, 1999&59; Hinsinger, 2001&59; Raghothama, 2005). Results from soil samples taken from the ectomycorrhizal rhizosphere found that loblolly pine mycorrhizal roots modified the soil environment, possibly making recalcitrant P more available. In addition, the long-term effect of fertilization was a 396&37; increase in biologically available P.

Fertilization increased loblolly pine volume growth by 57 m&185;3 ha and increased the P content in the litter layer by 118&37;. After the stand was harvested and replanted, mineralization of the litter layer may also increase soil P pools. Results from this long-term fertilization experiment in the Coastal Plain province of Virginia have demonstrated that there has been a significant increase in soil (33.6 kg P ha&178;-1) and biologically available P pools (3.0 kg P ha&178;-1).

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