Phosphorus and Root Development

By: John Kelly

Early season root development strongly influences crop season performance potential. One key factor for optimum root growth is phosphorus nutrition. Phosphorus is the energy molecule of the plant. Root growth, especially early in the season, occurs under naturally adverse conditions in the soil and this stress point demands a great deal of energy.

The plant available form of phosphorus is in the chemical form of PO4=. The strong and reactive negative charge of phosphorus creates chemical challenges in the soil environment. Elements such as calcium with a positive charge create undesirable reactions rendering the phosphorus unavailable for plant assimilation. The vast majority of soil reserve phosphorus is “tied-up”, meaning reacted in compounds that the plant can’t utilize. What are some solutions for optimum phosphorus availability in the soil?


We will discuss three: soil chemistry, soil biology, and complexing.

1. The adverse soil chemical reactions that create plant unavailable compounds can be reversed by reacting these with acid forming or acid inputs. When and where this is appropriate is site - specific and requires a soil analysis.

2. Improving biological activity in the soil creates increased carbon dioxide levels. Carbon dioxide present in the soil solution forms carbonic acid. This is a weak natural chemical that solubilizes the phosphorus compounds making them available to the plant.

3. Complexing is the process whereby chemical reactions with negatively charged anions or positively charged mono-valent (one positive charge) cations are protected from undesirable reactions by chemically protecting the nutrient ion. One highly successful manufacturing technology involves the introduction of specialized carbon com pounds that satisfy the highly reactive phosphorus charge. This process enables the phosphorus to move in the soil and assimilate into the plant efficiently. This can increase the relative phosphorus efficiency by as much as 25 times.

Crops will respond favorably to improve phosphorus uptake and efficiency. This greatly enhances the potential for improved crop returns.

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