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Phosphorus; elusive but essential

Boer, A.M. den (2012) Phosphorus; elusive but essential. Bachelor's Thesis, Biology.

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Phosphorus is an essential plant nutrient that is considered, despite its abundance in the earths crust, as one of the least available nutrients to plants. Plants can only take up mineral nutrients from the soil solution and phosphorus is taken up in the form of phosphate. Because the soil solution is constantly mined for nutrients it is important that the mineral contents are steadily replenished, this is done by mineralization of organic compounds that become labile and are then exchanged with the soil solution. In the mineralization process bacteria and fungi play a key role. Despite this mineral cycling that happens in the soil plants have developed a few more ‘tricks’ to maximize nutrient uptake. They can have a symbiotic exchange with mycorrhizal fungi and they can form specialized root structures, named cluster roots, which enhance surface area and the influence of the exuded compounds in these cluster roots. Because Pi is such a scarce nutrient in the soil solution farmers apply it directly in the form of mineral fertilizers. However a large part of the applied fertilizers becomes unavailable rather quickly and thus continuous over-application is necessary to maintain steady crop production. This results in a breaking of the P-cycle where P eventually ends up in surface waters and can hardly be reclaimed for application on agricultural land. Because this can obviously not continue indefinitely a lot of research is being done on alternative ways of soil fertility management. Although results point in the direction of the application of more organic alternatives such as farmyard manure and compost, it should be considered that the current crop varieties might not be adapted to a sudden change of soil management. This poses farmers and researchers both with a tremendous challenge but also with previously unexplored possibilities. It should be questioned how can plants maximize the uptake of phosphorus and how can good soil management maximize and sustain phosphorus availability?

Item Type: Thesis (Bachelor's Thesis)
Degree programme: Biology
Thesis type: Bachelor's Thesis
Language: English
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2018 07:48
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2018 07:48

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