Crop use and profile distribution of phosphorus in soils that developed on mafic rocks in southern Portugal

The phytoavailability of soil phosphorus (P) depends on the different forms in which it occurs and how these forms change after the application of P fertiliser to the soil. Forms of P in the A, B and C horizons of eleven pedons that developed on mafic rocks were characterised by a fractionation method before and after fertilisation with single superphosphate, and a micropot experiment was conducted to assess the short-term use of P fertiliser by rye (Secale cereale L.). The main sources of P to the crop were (i) phosphate adsorbed on mineral surfaces and pedogenic Fe, Al or Ca phosphates in the A horizon and (ii) Ca-phosphates in B and C horizons. In the C horizons, poor in Fe/Al phases and clay, the precipitated Ca-P showed low solubility, resulting in a reduction in shoot biomass. The apparent P recovery by rye was similar in the A (36%) and B (29%) but decreased in the C (15%) horizons. The partial factor productivity (g g−1) decreased from the A (58) to B (11) and C (5) horizons. P phytoavailability decreased with increasing profile depth because the transformation of P fertiliser to poorly soluble Ca-P forms increased with depth.