Comprehensive research into phosphorus (P) in soils and crops began in Finland in the early 1900s. The average amount of total P in the ploughed topsoil layer of mineral soils was about two tonnes per hectare in the 1930s, before the abundant use of fertilisers. The main chemical fractions of P in mineral soils were organic matter, primary apatite and secondary complexes of the hydrous oxides of Al and Fe. Of the smaller amounts of P in light peat soils, as much as 80% was present in stable organic compounds. Field experiments showed that the native P reserves of Finnish soils are poorly available to plants, and that P fertilisers are inefficiently utilised because of the strong fixation of applied phosphate in soils. In evaluations before the late 1950s, all simple chemical tests appeared to be rather unreliable indicators of the supply of P from soils to plants, but later research has shown that the results were impaired by errors implicit in the research materials. Some soil test P values (STP)obtained from old samples stored for more than ten years evidently were too high, particularly for organic soils, and many of the soils studied were strongly acidic and therefore biologically less fertile than the chemical P tests indicated. The acid ammonium acetate method (pH 4.65) was introduced in the early 1950s and has since been used in routine soil testing in Finland, not only for P but for all macronutrients except N. In later evaluations of different methods used for estimating the requirement of P fertilisation, the acid ammonium acetate method has proven equal or superior to any other simple chemical method
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