Growing Possibilities, A blog by XiteBio | Plant-Available Phosphates: Unlocking Your Fertilizer’s Potential
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Plant-Available Phosphates: Unlocking Your Fertilizer’s Potential

Every farmer knows the importance of phosphorous (P) when growing any crop. Phosphate fertilizer is one of the first crop inputs you think about before the season starts, but there is much more to soil P than putting fertilizer on your acres every year. In this week’s edition of growing possibilities, we are going to discuss how phosphates added to your soil actually get to your plants, and the importance of ensuring the efficient use of these phosphate sources.

Phosphorus is added to soil in a few different ways, through phosphate fertilizers, manure, organic matter/ plant debris, etc., and is essential to plant growth & development. These additions are almost always necessary, as most soils lack a natural reserve of plant-available P. Fertilizer application isn’t as cut and dry as applying phosphate fertilizer to your field though. Applied phosphate fertilizers have an average efficiency of less than 50% (1), meaning more than half of the applied fertilizer will not be available to your plants. They will instead become bound by soil particles, creating phosphate compounds or deposits that plants cannot use. During the winter months this is an even larger concern, as temperature decreases binding of soil-phosphates increase, further diminishing plant-available P.

Proper management of P inputs is necessary not only for protecting your investments and ensuring your crops get the nutrients they need, but also for protecting our natural resources. Inorganic phosphorous mined for use in fertilizers is a non-renewable resource we are quickly running out of. The worldwide demand for P is increasing due to our expanding global population, and is expected to surpass our supply by as early as 2033 (2). Because of this, increasing the efficiency of fertilizer applied to crop acres is a must. Incorporating a phosphate solubilizing bacteria such as XiteBio® Yield+ into your crop fertility plan will increase the ROI of your phosphate fertilizer investment and release phosphate already in the  soil by solubilizing stored/banked phosphate for crop uptake. Phosphate solubilizers break the bonds between phosphates in the soil and soil particles that bind to them and lock them up, creating plant-available forms of phosphate. This not only increases the efficiency of fertilizers you apply to the field, it also creates more plant available P from the natural phosphate reserves present in the soil. Phosphate solubilizing bacteria may also help reduce the environmental impact of fertilizer application, and most importantly to you, improve your phosphate fertilizer efficiency and your return on your fertilizer investment.


1) The Efficient Use of Phosphorus in Agricultural Soils, The Fertilizer Association of Ireland in association with Teagasc, Technical Bulletin Series – No. 4, February 2019

2) Duan, M., O’Dwyer, E., Stuckey, DC., Guo, M. (2019). Wastewater To Resource: Design of a Sustainable Phosphorus Recovery System. ChemistryOpen, 8(8):1109-1120. doi: 10.1002/open.201900189

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