Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Eric D. Roy


Phosphorus (P) is essential to life on Earth and often the limiting nutrient in agricultural systems. P fertilizer is thus an essential resource to maintain food security. In the last half century, agricultural intensification has led to an increase in P fertilizer consumption from 4.6 to 17.5 Tg of P/year to meet rising global food demand. Mineral P (i.e., phosphate rock) is a non-renewable resource in the context of the Anthropocene, and its price is vulnerable to global market fluctuations. Increased efficiency of P use on farms is considered the most effective strategy to conserve P. The soybean industry demands 9.7% of global P use, of which Brazil’s soy industry consumes the most, accounting for 5.8% of the world’s P2O5 use in 2014. This global source of soy production is challenged by the unique tendency of weathered tropical soils, such as Oxisols, to retain (i.e., fix) P in forms that are unavailable to crops. The accumulation of soil P due to years of P fertilization in excess of harvested P is referred to as “residual” or “legacy” P. Historical hotspots for crop production in the US and Europe have relied on residual soil P stocks to maintain yields despite reduced P inputs. Whether Brazil will be able to utilize the same strategy depends on the accessibility of residual soil P stocks when applied fertilizer P is reduced. Field research on this topic remains relatively scarce for cultivated Oxisols in tropical climates. I conducted a field trial at Tanguro Ranch in Mato Grosso, Brazil on a field that has been fertilized at standard high rates for 10 years to test whether residual soil P can be accessed by soy crops. Soy yield response differed significantly (p < 0.05) based on the interaction between fertilization treatment (0%, 50%, or 100% of standard P fertilization) and soil texture. My results highlight opportunities to enhance P fertilizer use efficiency in intensive tropical agriculture.



Number of Pages

47 p.