Determination of Plant Available P in Soil
Fertilization should be based on a proper diagnosis of the plant nutritional status. Without, there is always the risk of under fertilization causing economic losses by not exploiting the yield potential of the site and its crop. On the opposite, over fertilization not only hampers fertilizer economy through inefficient nutrient rates, but also causes serious environmental impacts on neighboring ecosystems. There are four basic diagnostic methods each of which has its advantages and disadvantages: ceteris paribus fertilizer trials are complicated and time consuming delivering results far too late for fertilization planning. Visual assessment is fast but requires experts eyes and works only for a few nutrients and only when severe nutrient deficiency occurs. Plant analysis is accurate, however, bound to well defined growth stages, but shows only the actual stage of supply with little information about available reserves in the soil or growth media and is also too late with its results for practical fertilization. Last but not least: analyzing the soil can be independent of crop development, well in advance to contribute for the fertilizer design for the actual crop and offers insight into the reserves in the substrate. However, its value for fertilization planning is strongly depending on the quality of the calibration of the results. Of all essential plant nutrients phosphorus is the one for which the most and intensive research work on assessing soils has been conducted in the past. This chapter introduces the basic conceptions of soil analysis for plant available P, provides an overview on available methods and discusses their advantages and disadvantages.