Phosphorus limitation of soybean and alfalfa biological nitrogen fixation on organic dairy farms
Low plant available phosphorus limits legume growth and biological nitrogen fixation (BNF). This study examined, under controlled conditions, the relationship between soil phosphorus and alfalfa and soybean BNF on two contrasting low-P soils (Ontario and Nova Scotia) from organic dairy farms. Soluble P was applied up to 135 mg P kg-1. An optimum range of 45 to 90 mg kg-1 applied P increased soybean plant growth, nodulation, N and P uptake and BNF. Significant effects of soil type reflected greater N supplying ability and lower P sorption for the Ontario soil. Alfalfa response to soluble P application was not as apparent. In addition three potentially organically acceptable amendments (MSW compost, Crystal Green® struvite and partially solubilized rock phosphate) were evaluated as alternate sources of plant available P. Compost and struvite, applied at moderate rates, sufficiently supplied P to increase plant growth and BNF comparably to that found for soluble P fertilizer.