Soil phosphorus (P) adsorption and desorption occur in an important endogenous cycle linked with soil fertility problems and relevant to the environmental risk assessment of P. In our study, the effect of long-term inorganic and organic fertilization on P adsorption and desorption characteristics in relation to changes in soil properties was evaluated by selecting three long-term experimental sites in southern China. The selected treatments at each site were CK (unfertilized), NPK (synthetic nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) and NPKM (synthetic NPK plus manure). The adsorption and desorption characteristics of P were evaluated using Langmuir and Freundlich isotherms. The results showed that long-term application of NPK plus manure significantly increased soil organic carbon (SOC), total P and available P at all three sites compared with the NPK and CK treatments. All three treatments fit these equations well. The maximum adsorption capacity (Q.sub.m) of P increased with NPKM treatment, and the binding energy of P (K) and the maximum buffering capacity (MBC) showed increasing trends. NPKM showed the highest Q.sub.m (2346.13 mg kg.sup.-1) at the Jinxian site, followed by Nanchang (221.16 mg kg.sup.-1) and Ningxiang (2219.36 mg kg.sup.-1). Compared to CK and NPK, the NPKM treatment showed a higher MBC as 66.64, 46.93 and 44.39 L kg.sup.-1 at all three sites. The maximum desorption capacity (D.sub.m) of P in soil was highest with the NPKM treatment (157.58, 166.76, 143.13 mg kg.sup.-1 ), showing a better ability to release P in soil. The correlation matrix showed a significant positive correlation of SOC, total and available P with Q.sub.m, D.sub.m and MBC. In conclusion, it is suggested that manure addition is crucial to improve P utilization in red paddy soils within the recommended range to avoid the risk of environmental pollution.