Understanding phosphorus on your farm


Phosphorus advice backed by science

Most New Zealand soils are naturally deficient in phosphorus (P). On farmland, high production of animal and horticultural products exacerbates deficiencies if the phosphorus removed is not replaced. Therefore, the use of phosphorus based fertilisers is vital for the success of New Zealand agriculture.

As part of our commitment to help you farm sustainably, productively and profitably we have curated a selection of advice guided by knowledge, underpinned by science to help you understand phosphorus use on your farm.

Phosphorus - the facts

Phosphorus is essential for storing energy and for specific metabolic functions during the early stages of plant and root growth. Therefore, plants need a steady supply of phosphorus during growth, but particularly for germination and root growth, tillering, seed and fruit setting, and ripening.

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Managing phosphorus loss

Phosphorus from farm settings enters waterways mainly as particulate-associated phosphorus. Around 80% of the phosphorus lost is in this form - the rest is soluble phosphorus dissolved in run-off water. As a result, strategies that reduce soil loss to waterways will also reduce phosphorus loss.

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Phosphorus availability in soil

Understanding what happens to phosphate fertiliser when it is applied to soil is an advantage when developing fertiliser plans, especially if reductions in fertiliser use are being considered.

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Phosphorus uptake by plants

Phosphorus (P) is an essential element for plant growth, but it is also a relatively immobile element in the soil. Fertiliser phosphorus is rapidly immobilised in the soil, with only an estimated 10-20% of applied phosphorus being used by plants in the year following application.

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