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Nutrient acquisition from arable subsoils in temperate climates: A review.

Soil Biol. Biochem. 57, 1003-1022 (2013)
Open Access Green as soon as Postprint is submitted to ZB.
In arable farming systems, the term ‘subsoil’ refers to the soil beneath the tilled or formerly tilled soil horizon whereas the latter one is denoted as ‘topsoil’. To date, most agronomic and plant nutrition studies have widely neglected subsoil processes involved in nutrient acquisition by crop roots. Based on our current knowledge it can be assumed that subsoil properties such as comparatively high bulk density, low air permeability, and poverty of organic matter, nutrients and microbial biomass are obviously adverse for nutrient acquisition, and sometimes subsoils provide as little as less than 10% of annual nutrient uptake in fertilised arable fields. Nevertheless, there is also strong evidence indicating that subsoil can contribute to more than two-thirds of the plant nutrition of N, P and K, especially when the topsoil is dry or nutrient-depleted. Based on the existing literature, nutrient acquisition from arable subsoils may be conceptualised into three major process components: (I) mobilisation from the subsoil, (II) translocation to the shoot and long-term accumulation in the Ap horizon and (III) re-allocation to the subsoil. The quantitative estimation of nutrient acquisition from the subsoil requires the linking of field experiments with mathematical modelling approaches on different spatial scales including Process Based Models for the field scale and FunctionaleStructural Plant Models for the plant scale. Possibilities to modify subsoil properties by means of agronomic management are limited, but ‘subsoiling’ e i.e. deep mechanical loosening e as well as the promotion of biopore formation are two potential strategies for increasing access to subsoil resources for crop roots in arable soils. The quantitative role of biopores in the nutrient acquisition from the subsoil is still unclear, and more research is needed to determine the bioaccessibility of nutrients in subsoil horizons.
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Publication type Article: Journal article
Document type Review
Keywords Structure dynamics; Biopore formation; Root growth; Drilosphere; Rhizodeposition; Microbial activity; Soil-water Content ; Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi ; Root-system Architecture ; Organic Phosphorus Transformations ; Modeling Cropping Systems ; Potassium Release Rates ; Term Field Experiment ; Untilled Loess Soil ; Rye Secale-cereale ; Maize Zea-mays
Reviewing status