Article open access publication

Phosphorus availability on many organically managed farms in Europe

Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems, Springer Nature, ISSN 1385-1314

Volume 110, 2, 2018

DOI:10.1007/s10705-017-9894-2, Dimensions: pub.1099704360,



  1. (1) Newcastle University, grid.1006.7
  2. (2) Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Vienna, Austria
  3. (3) Norwegian Centre for Organic Agriculture, Gunnars veg 6, 6630, Tingvoll, Norway
  4. (4) Forschungsinstitut für Biologischen Landbau, grid.424520.5
  5. (5) University of Copenhagen, grid.5254.6, KU
  6. (6) ETH Zurich, grid.5801.c
  7. (7) Sächsisches Landesamt für Umwelt, Landwirtschaft und Geologie, grid.500242.1
  8. (8) Center for Agricultural Technology Augustenberg, Institute of Applied Crop Science, Kutschenweg 20, 76287, Rheinstetten-Forchheim, Germany
  9. (9) University of Hohenheim, grid.9464.f


Maintaining sufficient soil phosphorus (P) levels for non-limiting crop growth is challenging in organic systems since off-farm inputs of P are restricted. This study assessed the status of P on organic farms in Europe using soil test results for extractable P. Data was obtained from published literature, unpublished theses, and various national and regional databases of soil test values. Most of the data (15,506 observations) came from field scale soil tests, but in some cases (1272 observations) values had been averaged across a farm. Farm scale and field scale data were analysed separately and the impact of farm type (arable, dairy, grassland, horticulture, mixed, poultry, unknown) was assessed. Soil test results were assigned to P classes from very low (P class 1) to very high (P class 5). The farm scale data came primarily from Norway, Sweden and Switzerland and did not indicate deficiencies in extractable P; 93% of farms fell into class 3 or above. The majority of the field scale data came from Germany and indicated sufficient or higher levels of P availability for arable and grassland systems on 60% of fields; the remaining fields had low or very low available P. Adaptations in organic systems may improve P uptake and utilization efficiency allowing yields to be maintained in the short-term, nevertheless there is cause for concern about the long-term P sustainability of some organic farming systems in Europe. This highlights the need to reassess allowable P inputs in organic farming systems to improve overall sustainability.

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