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Long-term (1980–2010) changes in cropland phosphorus budgets, use efficiency and legacy pools across townships in the Yongan watershed, eastern China

  • Author(s): Chen, D
  • Hu, M
  • Guo, Y
  • Wang, J
  • Huang, H
  • Dahlgren, RA
  • et al.

© 2016 Elsevier B.V. Quantitative information on cropland phosphorus (P) flows at the township scale is critical for developing sustainable P management measures under the smallholder farming system. This study addressed changes in cropland soil surface P budgets (i.e., net of P inputs and crop outputs), use efficiencies (i.e., the ratio between crop P uptake and total P input) and legacy P pools across 21 townships in the Yongan watershed of eastern China in 1980–2010. For the entire watershed, total P input (>98% from synthetic fertilizer and farmyard manure), crop uptake and budgets per cropland area increased from 50.4, 17.3 and 33.1 kg P ha−1yr−1in 1980 to 74.6, 20.5 and 55.1 kg P ha−1yr−1in 1995, and then sharply declined to 39.6, 11.4 and 28.2 kg P ha−1yr−1in 2010, respectively. Estimated P use efficiency decreased from 34% in 1980 to 26% in 1999 before slightly increasing to 28% in 2010. Although the 21 townships had similar temporal variations over the 1980–2010 period, P budgets and use efficiency showed 2–3-fold spatial variability among townships within a given year. Spatio-temporal variations in the P budget and use efficiency were mainly related to changes in P fertilization rates and patterns (i.e., ratio of applied synthetic fertilizer P and farmyard manure P) and cropland types. The 20 townships having soil data had 87–720% and 113–395% increases of Olsen-P and total P contents in the upper 20 cm of cropland soils between 1984 and 2009, respectively. Increased soil TP level between 1984 and 2009 suggested that more than 53–79% of the cumulative P budget accumulated as legacy P pools in cropland soils. Based on regression analyses, legacy soil P contribution to annual crop P uptake was estimated to increase from 0.47 kg P ha−1yr−1(3%) in 1980 to 3.45 kg P ha−1yr−1(31%) in 2010, with 52–80% from synthetic fertilizer and 2–46% from farmyard manure. Improved utilization of soil legacy P pools for crop production and increasing P use efficiency are necessary to minimize P inputs and reduce nonpoint source P pollution load. The high spatial heterogeneity in P budgets and use efficiencies across townships, as well as considerable legacy soil P pools after long-term over-application, should be considered in developing P management strategies under smallholder farm systems.

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