Advances in understanding the phosphate binding in soil: A Computational Chemistry perspective

04 November 2022, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Phosphorus (P) is an indispensable element to all forms of life and its efficient use in fertilizers is one of the conditions for food security. The efficiency of P fertilizers is affected by P mobilization and P fixation, both depending on the P binding strength to soil constituents. This review provides an overview of the P binding to soil constituents, especially to P-fixing mineral surfaces and its investigation using state-of-the-art Computational Chemistry (CC). Specifically, a brief overview will be given on experimental efforts related to the P adsorption at mineral surfaces and the factors affecting this process. Moreover, a brief introduction into common CC methods, techniques, and applications is presented. The main part of this review is focused on a possible strategy to cope with the soil heterogeneity by breaking down the complexity of P behavior in soil into well-defined models that can be discussed in terms of particular key factors. Hence, different molecular model systems and molecular simulations are introduced to reveal the P binding to soil organic matter (SOM), metal ions, and mineral surfaces. Simulation results provided an in-depth understanding of the P binding problem and explained at a molecular level the effects of surface plane, binding motif, kind and valency of metal ions, SOM composition, water, pH, and redox potential on the P binding in soil. On this basis, an overall molecular picture of P binding in soil can be then obtained by combining results for the different models. Eventually, challenges and further modifications of the existing molecular modeling approaches are discussed, such as steps necessary to bridge the molecular with the mesoscale.


P binding
Mineral Surfaces
Molecular modeling
MD simulations


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