Transfer functions for phosphorus and potassium soil tests and implications for the QUEFTS model.

Breure, M.S.; Eynde, E. Van; Kempen, B.; Comans, R.N.J.; Hoffland, E.


Multi-element soil extractions such as Mehlich 3 (M3) have gained popularity in recent years, but comparing outcomes to other soil testing methods is not always straightforward. In this study, extraction mechanisms of M3, Olsen and neutral 1 M ammonium acetate (AA) soil tests were explored and transfer functions were derived between P-Olsen and P-M3 as well as between K-AA and K-M3. Soils from tropical and temperate areas were used to derive these P and K transfer functions and were evaluated separately. The application of these transfer functions for tropical soils was evaluated by using them as input for the Quantitative Evaluation of the Fertility of Tropical Soils (QUEFTS). AA and M3 generally extracted similar amounts of K, but relations between K-AA and K-M3 were different for tropical and temperate soils. For tropical soils, the transfer function did not require additional parameters besides K-M3 to predict K-AA, but for temperate soils inclusion of clay content and pH was needed. This difference between tropical and temperate soils was explained by clay mineralogy. The relation between P-Olsen and P-M3 in tropical soils was found to be dependent on pH, Al-M3, Fe-M3 and Ca-M3. P-Olsen and K-AA values, calculated with their respective transfer functions, were used as input for QUEFTS. The yields predicted with measured P-Olsen and Exch. K were used as benchmark. For 63 out of 81 soil samples, predicted maize yields with transfer functions deviated less than 10% from the benchmark. The largest deviations from the benchmark were found for low P-Olsen and K-AA values, which corresponds to QUEFTS maize yield predictions up to 3000 kg ha−1. We conclude that a M3 extraction results and soil pH can reliably be transferred to, and thus replace P-Olsen and K-AA determinations with the functions developed for tropical soils. The transfer functions can be used to generate input for the QUEFTS model with minor effects on yield predictions, thus expanding its applicability in cases where only M3 extraction results are available.