Within and between-field spatial variation in soil phosphorus in permanent grassland

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Soil phosphorus (P) concentrations above certain critical thresholds are a problem in many areas leading to its transport into surface and ground waters. Site-specific nutrient applications and the development of nutrient management plans for farms would help to optimize nutrient applications, meet crop requirements and take into consideration current soil nutrient status. In Northern Ireland, high concentrations of soil P are common, whereas low concentrations of soil potassium (K) and sulphur (S) have been reported in many silage fields. This study used grid and transect soil sampling to measure within- and between-field spatial variation in soil Olsen-P status across a 50-ha permanent grassland site used for silage production. Soil phosphorus indices ranged from Index 1 to Index 4 within single fields. The spatial patterns of soil P across fields suggested that there was scope for site-specific P fertilizer applications, with variable quantities of P being applied to different fields and within individual fields. Site-specific nutrient management has the potential to reduce excess P applications in some areas and avoid deficiencies in others, thereby minimizing environmental problems and optimizing yield.

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