Low soil phosphorus availability triggers maize growth stage specific rhizosphere processes leading to mineralization of organic P

Sunendra R. Joshi, James W. Morris, Malak M. Tfaily, Robert P. Young, David H. McNear

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Aims: In this study, we examine the rhizosphere processes influencing organic P (Po) utilization in soil with low inorganic P (Pi) availability and how they change with plant development. Interactions between plants and the rhizosphere microbial community triggered by P deficiency may provide insights into the role of P availability on degradation of soil organic matter (SOM). Methods: Maize (Zea mays) plants were grown in low P containing soil. Soil pH, potential acid phosphatase activities, soil C and P pools, microbial biomass C and P, microbial community structure, and plant P content were analyzed at different vegetative growth stages (VGS). Results: At early VGS, the plants were P deficient which correlated with greater rhizosphere potential acid phosphatase activity, degradation of SOM and a reduction in the Po pool. At late VGS, the plants appeared to recover which correlated with a decrease in Meh (III) extractable P, an increase in microbial biomass C and P, change in microbial community structure, and greater total P (TP) in the plant biomass. Conclusions: The mineralization of organic C and Po are coupled in low P soil where N is not limited. The overall findings from this study advance our understanding of the coupled biogeochemical rhizosphere processes controlling P cycling at different plant growth stages and notably the importance of Po to the overall P needs of plants in soil with low Pi availability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-440
Number of pages18
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by NIFA-AFRI award # 2016–67019-25281. R. Young was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is operated for DOE by Battelle Memorial Institute under contract DE-AC05–557 76RL01830. A portion of the research was performed using EMSL (grid.436923.9), a DOE Office of Science User Facility sponsored by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


  • Maize
  • Organic phosphorus
  • Phosphorus
  • Rhizosphere

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science


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