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How do native plants affect the supply of phosphorus to soils?

Blue Mountains Ashlea Doolette

Many Australian soils are low in phosphorus (P) and so mineral P fertiliser is widely used in Australian agricultural systems to achieve adequate plant growth and production.

Phosphorus fertilisers are a non-renewable resource, therefore there is a need to decrease fertiliser inputs and find alternative methods to improve crop nutrition.

Australia’s native vegetation has already adapted and evolved ways to cope with low soil P without the need for fertiliser. Native vegetation is more efficient at taking up P from the soil, can survive on lower amounts of P, and can store large amounts of P in their root and stems that can be remobilised throughout the plant when P reserves are low. 

Phosphorus exists in several chemical forms in plants. These can be divided into inorganic P and different organic compounds (e.g. RNA, DNA, phospholipids). Yet in native plants we don’t fully know the distribution of these different P compounds or their concentrations.

This research will be of great benefit in understanding why different plant species have different P requirements, how native vegetation cycle/transform/remobilise P and thrive under low soil P condition as well as the impact that senesced native vegetation has on P supply to soils. 

This is just one 'featured' honours project with my main area of research focusing on understanding how phosphorus (P) is stored and transformed in soils and plants. I have a particular interest in the role that factors such as temperature, soil water content and soil type – as well as different ecosystems (e.g. agricultural, alpine, coastal) – all play in influencing P cycling. Most projects will require completing some fieldwork. 

If you have your own ideas for an honours project, please contact me to discuss further.

Ashlea Doolette researcher photo


Dr Ashlea Doolette

Research area: Agriculture, food and wine

Recommended honours enrolmentHonours in Agricultural Science or Honours in Soil Science

Tagged in Honours projects - Agricultural science, Honours projects - Soil science, Honours projects - Ecology and environmental science, Honours projects - Ashlea Doolette