Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 113, Issue 3, pp 247–266 | Cite as

Phosphorus uptake benefit for wheat following legume break crops in semi-arid Australian farming systems

  • Ashlea DooletteEmail author
  • Roger Armstrong
  • Caixian Tang
  • Chris Guppy
  • Sean Mason
  • Ann McNeill
Original Article


This field study assessed phosphorus dynamics (crop-P uptake, resin-extractable P in the root-zone, P mobilisation and microbial-P) in break crop-cereal rotation sequences at four Australian semi-arid field sites differing in soil P fertility. Phosphorus mobilisation (9–30 kg P ha−1) was apparent under break crops, consistently under canola and peas at three sites with low soil P fertility (i.e. pre-sowing soil resin-extractable P  < 20 mg P kg−1). Enhanced biological cycling of P (i.e. increased microbial-P) was limited to a low P site in the break crop phase. Phosphorus content of break crop aboveground residues following grain removal was 1–7 kg P ha−1; P input was greater (12–18 kg P ha−1) where legumes were green/brown manured. Varied residue P input did not result in differences in resin-extractable or microbial-P in soil prior to sowing wheat. Phosphorus uptake was greater for wheat after legume break crops compared to continuous wheat (2.0–4.7 kg P ha−1) at all sites, especially where crops were green/brown-manured (3.9–5.9 kg P ha−1). Greater P uptake by wheat was associated with increased grain yield at three sites but was not significantly correlated with the quantity of P input from break crop residues at all four sites or with soil mineral nitrogen pre-sowing of wheat at three sites. Break crops can directly contribute to P resource-use efficiency by mobilising residual P from soil but the agronomic significance of P supply from break crop residues to a P uptake benefit for following wheat remains to be elucidated.


Crop rotation Legumes Soil–plant P cycling Resin-extractable P Residues Microbial biomass 



Financial support was provided by GRDC Project UA00119. The authors wish to thank the following organisations for provision of the sites and acknowledge their collaboration: Mallee Sustainable Farming and CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences (Karoonda), Birchip Cropping Group (Hopetoun), Agriculture Victoria (Longerenong), and CSIRO Plant Industry Canberra and Farmlink (Junee). Thank you to Philippa Tansing, Duy Nang Nguyen and Girish Choppala for technical assistance.

Supplementary material

10705_2019_9977_MOESM1_ESM.docx (24 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 25 kb)


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Agriculture, Food and Wine and Waite Research InstituteThe University of AdelaideGlen OsmondAustralia
  2. 2.Agriculture Victoria Research, Grains Innovation Park, Private Bag 260HorshamAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Animal, Plant and Soil Sciences, Centre for AgriBioscienceLa Trobe University, Melbourne CampusBundooraAustralia
  4. 4.School of Environmental and Rural Science, Precision Agriculture Research GroupUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  5. 5.Agronomy SolutionsHindmarshAustralia

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