New Phosphorus measurement tested

Image of a woman leaning over showing roots of a wheat seedling in a field

Professor Sally Smith from the University of Adelaide.

Soil phosphorus can be taken up by wheat roots directly or through beneficial arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). But how much phosphorus can the mycorrhizal fungi provide? Does crop rotation make a difference?

The answers rest on a new technique using labelled phosphorus. This technique allows the phosphorus to be traced from the soil and into the wheat plants, as well as being measured in the mycorrhiza. It was trialled in Karoonda, South Australia, in 2012. This is the first time this technique has been used in field trials in Australia and required approval from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.

Professor Andrew Smith and his team, which includes Professor Sally Smith, Dr Maria Manjarrez-Martinez and Dr Ann McNeill from the University of Adelaide, are using this technique to demonstrate how important the contribution of mycorrhizas is to phosphorus nutrition and whether break crops can be used to maximise AMF populations. 

The research team established a field experiment at the beginning of this crop season to follow up and quantify the amount of phosphorus transferred by AMF. Results can also be used to measure the contribution of phosphorus uptake by wheat with different fertiliser applications and to inform new breeding strategies.

This project is part of the research in the GRDC Soil Biology Initiative.

More information:

Professor Andrew Smith,
University of Adelaide,
08 8313 6517,

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GRDC Project Code UA00128

Region National, South