Modelling heavy metal and phosphorus balances for farming systems

A.N. Keller, R. Schulin

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21 Citations (Scopus)


Accounting for agricultural activities such as P fertilization in regional models of heavy metal accumulation provides suitable sustainable management strategies to reduce nutrient surpluses and metal inputs in agricultural soils. Using the balance model PROTERRA-S, we assessed the phosphorus ( P), cadmium (Cd) and zinc (Zn) flux balances in agricultural soils of a rural region in Switzerland for different farm types and crop types. The P requirements of crops on arable farms were mainly supplied by commercial fertilizers and sewage sludge, while on animal husbandry farms P fertilizer demands were met by animal manure alone. Metal accumulation in soil was very different between the balance units. Estimated net Cd fluxes ranged between 1.0 and 2.3 g ha(-1) yr(-1) for arable farm types, 0.6 and 2.0 g ha(-1) yr(-1) for dairy and mixed farm types, and 9.1 and 17.8 g ha(-1) yr(-1) for animal husbandry farm types. Largest net Zn fluxes of 17.9 - 39.8 kg ha(-1) yr(-1) were estimated for animal husbandry farms, whereas for arable farm types net Zn fluxes of 101 - 260 g ha(-1) yr(-1) and for dairy and mixed farm types of 349 - 3360 g ha(-1) yr(-1) were found. The results indicate that P management is a primary factor determining the variation of these net Cd and net Zn fluxes. The latter were highly sensitive to the Zn/P concentration ratio in animal manure, atmospheric deposition and crop concentrations. Variation of net Cd fluxes resulted mainly from uncertainty in crop concentrations, atmospheric deposition, leaching parameters and uncertainty in Cd/P concentration ratio of commercial fertilizers. In addition, element balances were sensitive to empirical assumptions on fertilization strategy of farmers, such as the partitioning of manure between balance units.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-284
JournalNutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • cadmium accumulation
  • regional-scale
  • fertilizers
  • netherlands
  • management
  • soils
  • agroecosystems
  • uncertainty
  • budgets
  • feeds


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