A phosphate stockpile. Phosphorous, an important plant nutrient is difficult to be efficiently used by the plant. Silicon may mobilise its accessibility.
Photo: Shutterstock

01.03.2019

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Agricultural yields around the world can become more sustainable by using silicon to mobilise soil phosphorus, making it available for plants, according to a study by German and Danish researchers.

Phosphorus-based fertilisers, which are both environmentally damaging and a contain limited global resource, could conceivably become redundant for some years at a time. This is what researchers at the universities of Bayreuth in Germany and Copenhagen in Denmark have discovered investigating soils in the Arctic.

Agricultural yields depend very much on plants' access to sufficient quantities of essential nutrients. One of the most important nutrients is phosphorus. Although often present in large amounts in soils, a big share of phosphorus is strongly bound, especially to iron, which in turn is a component of various minerals. As a result, this phosphorus is immobile, rendering it un available to plants. Consequently, huge amounts of phosphorus-based fertilisers are utilised in agriculture today, to achieve the highest yields possible.

An interdisciplinary research team led by Dr Jörg Schaller (University of Bayreuth, Germany) and Professor Bo Elberling (University of Copenhagen, Denmark) have now found a way to make large amounts of the phosphorus yet strongly bound in soils available to plants.

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