Phosphorus and nitrogen (re-)cycling in agro-ecosystems

Plant Nutrition

Globally food demand is increasing while natural resources are shrinking. Human alterations of nutrient cycles are a major cause of global change, through adverse effects on water bodies, atmosphere, climate and biodiversity in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Our research is therefore dedicated to the phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) (re-)cycling in agro-ecosystems of the temperate and tropical zone with the overall goal to maximize the use efficiency of nutrients by crops while minimizing adverse effects to the environment. We are experts on the use of stable and radio-active isotope techniques to study P and N fluxes in soil-plant systems.


Recent Publications

  • Estimates of mean residence times of phosphorus in commonly considered inorganic soil phosphorus pools
    Helfenstein, Julian; Pistocchi, Chiara; Oberson, Astrid; Tamburini, Federica; Goll, Daniel S.; et al.
    Biogeosciences,  DOI: 10.5194/bg-17-441-2020, JAN 30 2020
  • Influence of long-term phosphorus fertilisation history on the availability and chemical nature of soil phosphorus
    van der Bom, FJT; McLaren, TI; Doolette, AL; Magid, J; Frossard, E; Oberson, A; Jensen, LS
  • The nitrogen nutrition of yam (Dioscorea spp)
    Hgaza, KV; Oberson, A; Kiba, ID; Diby, LN; Akef, S; Frossard, E
    JOURNAL OF PLANT NUTRITION, 10.1080/01904167.2019.1659315  2019
  • Predicting Phosphate Release from Sewage Sludge Ash Using an Ion Sink Assay
    Nanzer, S; Oberson, A; Eggenberger, U; Frossard, E
    JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY, 48 (3):746-754; 10.2134/jeq2018.11.0394 MAY-JUN 2019
  • Residual phosphorus availability after long-term soil application of organic waste
    Lemming, C; Oberson, A; Magid, J; Bruun, S; Scheutz, C; Frossard, E; Jensen, LS
    AGRICULTURE ECOSYSTEMS & ENVIRONMENT, 270 65-75; 10.1016/j.agee.2018.10.009 FEB 1 2019
  • Pseudomonas protegens CHA0 does not increase phosphorus uptake from P-33 labeled synthetic hydroxyapatite by wheat grown on calcareous soil
    Meyer, G; Maurhofer, M; Frossard, E; Gamper, HA; Mader, P; Meszaros, E; Schonholzer-Mauclaire, L; Symanczik, S; Oberson, A
    SOIL BIOLOGY & BIOCHEMISTRY, 131 217-228; 10.1016/j.soilbio.2019.01.015 APR 2019
  • Above- and belowground nitrogen distribution of a red clover-perennial ryegrass sward along a soil nutrient availability gradient established by organic and conventional cropping systems
    Hammelehle, Andreas; Oberson, Astrid; Luscher, Andreas; Mader, Paul; Mayer, Jochen
    PLANT AND SOIL, 425 (1-2):507-525; 10.1007/s11104-018-3559-z APR 2018
  • The contribution of Stylosanthes guianensis to the nitrogen cycle in a low input legume-rice rotation under conservation agriculture
    Zemek, O; Frossard, E; Scopel, E; Oberson, A
    PLANT AND SOIL, 425 (1-2):553-576; 10.1007/s11104-018-3602-0 APR 2018
  • Water soluble phosphate fertilizers for crops grown in calcareous soils - an outdated paradigm for recycled phosphorus fertilizers?
    Meyer, G; Frossard, E; Mader, P; Nanzer, S; Randall, DG; Udert, KM; Oberson, A.
    PLANT AND SOIL, 424 (1-2):367-388; SI 10.1007/s11104-017-3545-x MAR 2018
  • Phosphorus availability on many organically managed farms in Europe 
    Cooper, Julia; Reed, Eleanor Y.; Hortenhuber, Stefan; et al. 
  • Improved Phosphorus Recycling in Organic Farming: Navigating Between Constraints
    Moller, K; Oberson, A; Bunemann, EK; Cooper, J; Friedel, JK; Glaesner, N; Hortenhuber, S; Loes, AK; Mader, P; Meyer, G; Muller, T; Symanczik, S; Weissengruber, L; Wollmann, I; Magid, J
    ADVANCES IN AGRONOMY, VOL 147, 147 159-237; 10.1016/bs.agron.2017.10.004 2018
  • Phosphorus cycling within soil aggregate fractions of a highly weathered tropical soil: A conceptual model 
    Garland, Gina; Bunemann, EK; Oberson, A; et al. 
    SOIL BIOLOGY & BIOCHEMISTRY, 116: 91-98 JAN 2018
Astrid Oberson

Dr. Astrid Oberson
ETH Zurich
Institute of Agricultural Sciences
8092 Zurich

Research topics

  • Nutrient use in organic farming, conservation agriculture and low input systems: specificities, potential and limitations.
  • Use efficiency by plants of nutrients contained in animal manure, plant residues or recycling fertilizers.
  • Microbial source-sink functions in the use of these nutrient sources and the impact of microorganisms on available nutrient pools in the soil.
  • Interactions between phosphorus and nitrogen availability, including symbiotic di-nitrogen fixation by legume.
  • Above- and belowground nitrogen input by legumes using 15N-enriched and natural abundance techniques.



  • Soil microbiology
  • Soil chemistry
  • Crop Sciences
  • Grassland Sciences
  • Plant and microbial ecology
  • Plant Physiology