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A Case Study of Potential Reasons of Increased Soil Phosphorus Levels in the Northeast United States

Department of Cooperative Extension, University of Maine, 57 Houlton Rd., Presque Isle, ME 04769, USA
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Agronomy 2017, 7(4), 85;
Received: 17 November 2017 / Revised: 12 December 2017 / Accepted: 14 December 2017 / Published: 18 December 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Mineral Nutrition: Principles and Perspectives)
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Recent phosphorus (P) pollution in the United States, mainly in Maine, has raised some severe concerns over the use of P fertilizer application rates in agriculture. Phosphorus is the second most limiting nutrient after nitrogen and has damaging impacts on crop yield if found to be deficient. Therefore, farmers tend to apply more P than is required to satisfy any P loss after its application at planting. Several important questions were raised in this study to improve P efficiency and reduce its pollution. The objective of this study was to find potential reasons for P pollution in water bodies despite a decrease in potato acreage. Historically, the potato was found to be responsible for P water contamination due to its high P sensitivity and low P removal (25–30 kg ha−1) from the soil. Despite University of Maine recommended rate of 56 kg ha−1 P, if soil tests reveal that P is below 50 kg ha−1, growers tend to apply P fertilizer at the rate of 182 kg ha−1 to compensate for any loss. The second key reason for excessive P application is its tendency to get fixed by aluminum (Al) in the soil. Soil sampling data from UMaine Soil Testing Laboratory confirmed that in Maine reactive Al levels have remained high over the last ten years and are increasing further. Likewise, P application to non-responsive sites, soil variability, pH change, and soil testing methods were found to be other possible reasons that might have led to increases in soil P levels resulting in P erosion to water streams. View Full-Text
Keywords: phosphorus use efficiency; environmental pollution; agriculture; potato phosphorus use efficiency; environmental pollution; agriculture; potato

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Sharma, L.K.; Bali, S.K.; Zaeen, A.A. A Case Study of Potential Reasons of Increased Soil Phosphorus Levels in the Northeast United States. Agronomy 2017, 7, 85.

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