Four methods for measuring quantities of 12 plant-available nutrients were compared using three sandy soils in a series of three experiments. Three of the methods use different ion-exchange resin forms—bags, capsules, and membranes—and the fourth was conventional chemical extraction. The first experiment compared nutrient extraction data from a medium of sand saturated with a nutrient solution. The second and third experiments used Nakai and Sheppard series soils from Canyonlands National Park, which are relatively high in soil carbonates. The second experiment compared nutrient extraction data provided by the four methods from soils equilibrated at two temperatures, “warm” and “cold.” The third experiment extracted nutrients from the same soils in a field equilibration. Our results show that the four extraction techniques are not comparable. This conclusion is due to differences among the methods in the net quantities of nutrients extracted from equivalent soil volumes, in the proportional representation of nutrients within similar soils and treatments, in the measurement of nutrients that were added in known quantities, and even in the order of nutrients ranked by net abundance. We attribute the disparities in nutrient measurement among the different resin forms to interacting effects of the inherent differences in resin exchange capacity, differences among nutrients in their resin affinities, and possibly the relatively short equilibration time for laboratory trials. One constraint for measuring carbonate-related nutrients in high-carbonate soils is the conventional ammonium acetate extraction method, which we suspect of dissolving fine CaCO3 particles that are more abundant in Nakai series soils, resulting in erroneously high Ca2+ estimates. For study of plant-available nutrients, it is important to identify the nutrients of foremost interest and understand differences in their resin sorption dynamics to determine the most appropriate extraction method.
1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Denver, Denver, CO 80210.
2U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, 2290 S. W. Resource Blvd., Moab, UT 84532.
3Bureau of Land Management, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Kanab, UT 84741.
Dr. Belnap is corresponding author. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Received Feb. 7, 2002; accepted June 28, 2002.