During 1899–1964 various levels of 0·5 M sodium bicarbonate-soluble P had been established in an experiment on a sandy clay loam (pH 6·5–7·0) at Saxmundham, Suffolk. Modification made between 1965 and 1968 widened the range of soluble P values to 3–67 mg/kg. Relationships between these soluble P values and yields of potatoes and sugar beet in 1969–74 and cereals in 1970–7 were assessed. Responses by potatoes and sugar beet to freshly applied superphosphate were also determined at each level of soluble P. Residual effects of these dressings and responses to fresh superphosphate between 1974 and 1976 were measured by barley. Two amounts of N were tested on spring barley in 1976–7 and two cultivars of winter wheat were grown in 1977 and yields related to soluble P.
Relationships between yields and soluble P were described by an asymptotic regression equation. This model represented the measured yields well for all crops except barley, in one 4-year-period, when there were insufficient data at low soil P values and a linear regression model was fitted. The asymptotic model was used to estimate plateau yields each year and soluble P values at which yields were less than plateau values by one standard error. Average plateau yields, and associated soluble P values were: potatoes, 43 t/ha and 25 mg P/kg; sugar (from sugar beet) 6·8 t/ha and 20 mg P/kg; spring barley, given 63 kg N/ha, 4·7 t/ha and 25 mg P/kg; barley given 94 kg N/ha, 5·3 t/ha and 33 mg P/kg; winter wheat, 6·5 t/ha and 20 mg P/kg.
The model was further used to estimate responses to dressings of superphosphate at three levels of soluble P (9, 15 and 25 mg/kg) in the soils. Yield responses to 55 kg P/ha were 3·9, 2·1 and 1·8 t tubers/ha and 1·1, 0·3 and 0·0 t sugar/ha, for potatoes and sugar beet respectively, at the three levels of soluble P.
On impoverished soils (soluble P < 10 mg/kg) even the largest fresh applications of broadcast superphosphate did not raise yields to those achieved on enriched soils (soluble P > 25 mg P/kg) in the absence of fresh phosphate.
Soluble P in the soils accounted for much of the within-year variation of yields and estimated reliably and quantitatively the value of phosphate residues derived from both superphosphate and farmyard manure which had been applied in varying amounts and at different times between 1899 and 1976.
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