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When Justus von Liebig did his ground-breaking work towards what we now know as Liebig’s law of the minimum, little was known about the chemical nature of the nutrients. Justus von Liebig largely based his presentation of the chemicals on the doctrine of Berzelius. However, as Geoffrey Leeper pointed out in a Note on Chemical Terms in his well-known textbook, “Unfortunately, archaic usages have lingered in soil science long past their time … and phosphate appears as P2O5, which is quaintly referred to as ‘phosphoric acid’. The phosphate radicle (PO4), which does exist, should surely be preferred, or alternatively the element (P). These can be converted into one another on the basis 1.00 part of P is equivalent to 2.29 P2O5 and to 3.06 P04.”

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This page is a summary of: The pervasive use of P 2 O 5 , K 2 O, CaO, MgO and other molecules that do not exist in soil or fertiliser bags, New Phytologist, September 2021, Wiley,
DOI: 10.1111/nph.17715.
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