Sustainable phosphorus - new research effort
Global Phosphorus Research Initiative (GPRI)
The GPRI is a joint initiative between the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology (UTS), Sydney, and the Department of Water and Environmental Studies at Linköping University, Sweden. The main objective of the GPRI is to undertake quality transdisciplinary research on sustainable global phosphorus resources for future food security.
Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for all plants and animals. We get our P through the food we eat, which has been fertilized by mineral or organic P fertilizers. Indeed, 90% of the P society uses is for food production.
Modern agricultural systems are dependent on continual inputs of P fertilizers processed from phosphate rock. Phosphate rock is mined in only a few countries, including China, the US and Western Sahara/Morocco. Yet these P reserves are becoming increasingly scarce. Studies suggest current reserves will be depleted within 50-100 years. Further, a global peak in P reserves could occur by 2040. While the exact timing might be disputed, it is widely accepted that the quality of P rock is decreasing and cost increasing. The price of phosphate rock has risen seven-fold in the last 14 months alone.
The P situation has many similarities with oil, yet worse than oil, there is no substitute for P in food production.
Click here to read 8 reasons why we need to better manage our global phosphorus resources for sustainable food production.
Other documents currently available at the site
The Story of Phosphorus: 8 reasons why we need to rethink the management of phosphorus resources in the global food system
In 2007 the Energy Bulletin posted a peak phosphorus article by geologist Patrick Déry and co-author Bart Anderson (Déry and Anderson, 2007). In this article, the authors estimate U.S phosphate rock reserves peaked almost 20 years ago, around 1989. This same article suggests global reserves peaked around the same year. Whilst there was indeed a production peak in this year, like oil peaks in the 70’s, this observed peak was not a true maximum production peak, and was instead a consequence of political factors such as the collapse of the Former Soviet Union and decreased fertilizer demand from Western Europe.-BA