Approximating phosphorus release from soils to surface runoff and subsurface drainage

J Environ Qual. Mar-Apr 2001;30(2):508-20. doi: 10.2134/jeq2001.302508x.


Phosphorus application in excess of crop needs has increased the concentration of P in surface soil and runoff and led many states to develop P-based nutrient management strategies. However, insufficient data are available relating P in surface soil, surface runoff, and subsurface drainage to develop sound guidelines. Thus, we investigated P release from the surface (0-5 cm depth) of a Denbigh silt loam from Devon, U.K. (30-160 mg kg-1 Olsen P) and Alvin, Berks, Calvin, and Watson soils from Pennsylvania (10-763 mg kg-1 Mehlich-3 P) in relation to the concentration of P in surface runoff and subsurface drainage. A change point, where the slopes of two linear relationships between water- or CaCl2-extractable soil P and soil test phosphorus (STP) (Olsen or Mehlich-3) meet, was evident for the Denbigh at 33 to 36 mg kg-1 Olsen P, and the Alvin and Berks soils at 185 to 190 mg Mehlich-3 P kg-1. Similar change points were also observed when STP was related to the P concentration of surface runoff (185 mg kg-1) and subsurface drainage (193 mg kg-1). The use of water and CaCl2 extraction of surface soil is suggested to estimate surface runoff P (r2 of 0.92 for UK and 0.86 for PA soils) and subsurface drainage P (r2 of 0.82 for UK and 0.88 for PA soils), and to determine a change point in STP, which may be used in support of agricultural and environmental P management.

MeSH terms

  • Forecasting
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Phosphorus / analysis*
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Water Movements
  • Water Pollutants / analysis*


  • Soil Pollutants
  • Water Pollutants
  • Phosphorus