Phosphorus forms and enzymatic hydrolyzability of organic phosphorus in soils after 30 years of organic and conventional farming



Lower P-input levels in organic than conventional farming can decrease soil total and available P, which can potentially be resupplied from soil organic P. We studied the effect of 30 y of conventional and organic farming on soil P forms, focussing especially on organic P. Soil samples (0–20 cm) were taken in a field experiment with a nonfertilized control, two organic systems receiving P inputs as animal manure, and two conventional systems receiving only mineral P or mineral P and manure. Soils were analyzed for total, inorganic, organic, and microbial P, by sequential P fractionation and by enzyme additions to alkaline soil extracts. Samples taken prior to starting the experiment were also analyzed. Average annual P balances ranged from –20 to +5 kg ha–1. For systems with a negative balance, labile and moderately labile inorganic P fractions decreased, while organic and stable inorganic P fractions were hardly affected. Similar quantities and proportions of organic P extracted with NaOH-EDTA were hydrolyzed in all soils after addition of an acid phosphatase, a nuclease, and a phytase, and enzyme-stable organic P was also similar among soils. Thus, neither sequential fractionation nor enzyme addition to alkaline soil extracts showed an effect of the type of applied P (manure vs. mineral) on organic P, suggesting that organic P from manure has largely been mineralized. Thus far, we have no indication that the greater microbial activity of the organic systems resulted in a use of stable P forms.