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Logo of annbotAboutAuthor GuidelinesEditorial BoardAnnals of Botany
Ann Bot. 2010 June; 105(7): 1183–1197.
Published online 2010 May 22. doi:  10.1093/aob/mcq098
PMCID: PMC2887072

A mechanistic model for understanding root-induced chemical changes controlling phosphorus availability


Background and Aims

Plant nutrition models do not properly account for the effects of root-induced chemical changes in the rhizosphere, e.g. pH changes, on the availability of nutrients such as phosphorus (P). As a result, they underestimate the actual P uptake, i.e. P bioavailability to the plant, in low-P soils. The present study aims at simulating root-induced chemical mechanisms controlling P nutrition in a P-limited soil.


In this work a mechanistic description for the adsorption of cations and anions by soil constituents (1pK-Triple Plane Model, ion-exchange and Nica–Donnan) was used to simulate changes induced by durum wheat (Triticum durum turgidum) in the P availability of the soil, as measured by water and CaCl2 extraction. Calcium (Ca) availability was also measured and simulated.

Key Results

The simulations were found to be in close agreement with experimental data. In the rhizosphere, the goodness-of-fit required to account for the measured uptake of Ca by plants, in addition to the measured uptake of P and root-induced alkalization, were satisfactory. Calcium uptake significantly increased P availability, as assessed through water extraction, by decreasing the promoting effect of Ca adsorption on P adsorption. The study thus enabled P and Ca availability to be related to their bioavailability for durum wheat under experimental conditions. It was also shown that P was primarily adsorbed onto Fe oxides and clay minerals (kaolinite and illite) depending on soil pH. The major source of P for durum wheat nutrition was P desorbed from goethite and kaolinite.


In addition to confirming the validity of our approach to model P availability, the present investigation suggested that in the studied soil, a novel root-induced chemical process was controlling P nutrition under P-deficient conditions, namely the uptake of Ca.

Keywords: Triticum turgidum durum, rhizosphere, phosphorus, calcium, pH, adsorption, surface complexation model

Articles from Annals of Botany are provided here courtesy of Oxford University Press