Subsoil-potassium depletion accounts for the nutrient budget in high-potassium agricultural soils

Sci Rep. 2021 Jun 2;11(1):11597. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-90297-1.


Continuous potassium (K) removal without replenishment is progressively mining Argentinean soils. Our goals were to evaluate the sensitivity of soil-K to K budgets, quantify soil-K changes over time along the soil profile, and identify soil variables that regulate soil-K depletion. Four on-farm trials under two crop rotations including maize, wheat and soybean were evaluated. Three treatments were compared: (1) control (no fertilizer applied); (2) application of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur fertilizers -NPS-; and (3) pristine condition. After nine years, crops removed from 258 to 556 kg K ha-1. Only two sites showed a decline in the exchangeable-K levels at 0-20 cm but unrelated to K budget. Topsoil exchangeable-K levels under agriculture resulted 48% lower than their pristine conditions, although still above response levels. Both soil exchangeable-K and slowly-exchangeable K vertical distribution patterns (0-100 cm) displayed substantial depletion relative to pristine conditions, mainly concentrated at subsoil (20-100 cm), with 55-83% for exchangeable-K, and 74-95% for slowly-exchangeable-K. Higher pristine levels of exchangeable-K and slowly-exchangeable-K and lower clay and silt contents resulted in higher soil-K depletion. Soil K management guidelines should consider both topsoil and subsoil nutrient status and variables related to soil K buffer capacity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't