Management of microorganisms to unlock the phosphorus bank in soil

Australian grain producers apply $1 billion worth of phosphorus (P) fertilisers each year, but only 50% is taken up by plants. Much of the remaining fertiliser P becomes fixed in soil and the P ‘bank’ in Australian arable soils is estimated to be worth $10 billion. Within Professor Gleeson’s research program they are working to provide grain growers with practical management options that harness soil microorganisms to unlock part of this fixed phosphorus bank.

The productivity of the Australian grains industry depends on the small zone of soil surrounding roots, known as the rhizosphere. Nutrient uptake by plants is strongly influenced by nutrient dynamics in the rhizosphere and by the interaction between roots, microorganisms and mineral particles that occur in this zone in the soil. Despite the importance of the rhizosphere, very little is known about rhizosphere processes and in particular how to manipulate the rhizosphere to benefit productivity.

The project aims to:

• Improve understanding of the mechanistic basis of rhizosphere strategies for enhancing phosphorus mobilisation in order to optimise phosphorus use within farming systems
• Provide the agricultural sector with management options that harness soil microorganisms to unlock part of the $10 billion worth of fixed P in Australian arable soils and use P fertilisers more efficiently

Collaborator/s

  • Professor Xu Minggang, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences
  • Dr. Pu Shen, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences
  • Professor Daniel Murphy, Dr. Suman George, UWA
  • Dr. Chris Guppy, University of New England
  • Dr. Terry Rose, Southern Cross University