Phosphorus leaching from pastures can be an environmental risk and even a significant fertiliser expense


  • Matt R. Redding
  • A. Ghani
  • M. Kear
  • M. O'Connor
  • W. Catto



While it is true that leaching is usually not a strong pathway for phosphorus (P) loss under many systems, is it true for all? Two studies reported in this paper sought to establish if significant phosphorus leaching can occur under normal pastoral production systems. Undisturbed-core lysimeters collected from a Wharekohe silt loam from Northland were treated with fertiliser P (reactive phosphate rock and superphosphate) then leached from August to November, 2005. In a second study, soil profiles under pasture for sheep/beef and dairy production in the catchments of the Rotorua lakes were sampled to depths of 1.5 m (28 sites), and soil Olsen P and P retention capacity index were determined down these profiles. Phosphorus losses from the Wharekohe soil to 25 cm depth were up to 33% of the P applied (superphosphate applications of 50 and 100 kg P/ha). Some Rotorua soils displayed enriched P concentrations at depth (to 1.5 m), often coupled with moderate or low P sorption capacities. If connectivity exists between leaching pathways and surface water bodies these observations indicate that alternative management strategies need to be developed and adopted for soils that leach significant quantities of P. The Wharekohe silt loam is one such soil. Keywords: phosphorus, leaching