Peak phosphorus, who knew?

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Doug's picture
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Peak phosphorus, who knew?

Yet another troubling shortage coming up:,0


Our dwindling supply of phosphorus, a primary component underlying the growth of global agricultural production, threatens to disrupt food security across the planet during the coming century. This is the gravest natural resource shortage you've never heard of.


V's picture
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Re: Peak phosphorus, who knew?

Weston Price documented the depletion of our soils in "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration"  published in the 1930"s.

Anybody ever read a farm bill passed by the best congress money can buy? It is why not only are large amounts of our best land being taken out of food production, turning vast amounts of the U.S into corn deserts for bio fuels, but why we are dying a slow death due to the robbing of  nutrients from our food supply. I highly recommend reading Price's book and joining the Weston  A Price foundation.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Phosphorite, phosphate rock or rock phosphate is a non-detrital sedimentary rock which contains high amounts of phosphate bearing minerals. The phosphate content of phosphorite is at least 20% which is a large enrichment over the typical sedimentary rock content of less than 0.2%.[1] The phosphate is present as fluorapatite typically in cryptocrystalline masses (grain sizes < 1 μm) referred to as collophane.[1]The dark brown to black beds range from a few centimetres to several metres in thickness. The layers contain the same textures and structures as fine grained limestones and may represent diagenetic replacements of carbonate minerals by phosphates.[1]

Phosphorites are known from Proterozoic banded iron formations in Australia, but are more common from Paleozoic and Cenozoic sediments. The Permian Phosphoria Formation of the western United States represents some 15 million years of sedimentation reaches a thickness of 420 metres and covers an area of 350 000 km2.[1] Commercially mined phosporites occur in FranceBelgiumSpainMoroccoTunisia andAlgeria. In the United States phosphorites have been mined in FloridaTennesseeWyoming and Idaho.[2]

[edit]Production and use

Deposits which contain phosphate in quantity and concentration which are economic to mine as ore for their phosphate content are not particularly common. The two main sources for phosphate are guano, formed from bird droppings, and rocks containing concentrations of the calcium phosphate mineral, apatite.

Phosphate rock is mined, beneficiated, and either solubilized to produce wet-process phosphoric acid, or smelted to produce elementalphosphorus. Phosphoric acid is reacted with phosphate rock to produce the fertilizer triple superphosphate or with anhydrous ammonia to produce the ammonium phosphate fertilizers. Elemental phosphorus is the base for furnace-grade phosphoric acid, phosphorus pentasulfide,phosphorus pentoxide, and phosphorus trichloride. Approximately 90% of phosphate rock production is used for fertilizer and animal feed supplements and the balance for industrial chemicals.

For general use in the fertilizer industry, phosphate rock or its concentrates preferably have levels of 30% phosphorus pentoxide (P2O5), reasonable amounts of calcium carbonate (5%), and <4% combined iron and aluminium oxides. Worldwide, the resources of high-grade ore are declining, and the beneficiation of lower grade ores by washing, flotation and calcining is becoming more widespread.

In addition to phosphate fertilisers for agriculture, phosphorus from rock phosphate is also used in animal feed supplements, food preservatives, anti-corrosion agents, cosmetics, fungicides, ceramics, water treatment and metallurgy.[3]

In the world, the United States is the leading producer and exporter of phosphate fertilizers, accounting for about 37% of world P2O5 exports.[4]The world’s total economic demonstrated resource of rock phosphate is 18 Gt, which occurs principally as sedimentary marine phosphorites.[3]

China, the United States and Morocco are the world's largest miners of phosphate rock, each producing about a quarter of the total world production. Other countries with significant production include BrazilRussiaJordan and Tunisia. Historically, large amounts of phosphates were obtained from guano deposits on small islands such as Christmas Island and Nauru, but these sources are now largely depleted.



kemosavvy's picture
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Joined: Oct 13 2008
Posts: 254
Re: Peak phosphorus, who knew?

I just put down Rose George's book The Big Necessity, which is about how we deal with our human waste (or rather, how we mismanage it) and she mentioned that the Chinese are very well aware of there phosphorus depletion and the government/people work together to get the most of what remains and recycle it to the best of their ability (since much is lost in their human waste).

I have a knee-jerk reaction to communist regimes but from a resource depletion perspective.... you gotta give it to them. They really seem to effective at top-down management of resources and taking a long term view of things


Damnthematrix's picture
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Re: Peak phosphorus, who knew?

Who knew..?  I knew; we've been discussing this for TWO YEARS here in my circles in Australia, where we have the world's poorest soils.

Build your soils up NOW while you still can, and ensure NOTHING leaves your boundaries by following good permaculture practices...


xraymike79's picture
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Re: Peak phosphorus, who knew?

....the unnerving parallels between the social organisms created by humans and ants: ''Both ants and men conduct wars, divide into specialised castes of workers, build cities, maintain infant nurseries and cemeteries, take slaves, practise agriculture . . . though ant societies are more energetic, altruistic, and efficient than human ones. The mirroring makes us nervous: Are we not enough like ants or are we too much like them?''

Both the novel and the non-fiction are packed with fascinating details which draw obvious parallels between humans and ants. Does this sound familiar: about 10 per cent of the workers in any ant colony earn elite status by initiating more tasks and working harder than other ants, while some are forced into low-status jobs, such as rubbish collecting, a cycle from which there is no escape?

The underlying message in Anthill is humanity has reached a point where it is at war with all other species by consuming so much of the planet's resources. When this happens in nature, there is a crash. There must be a crash.


ants offer a heap of lessons for humanity


SteveW's picture
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Posts: 490
Re: Peak phosphorus, who knew?

Of the essential fertillizer elements NPK it is phosphorus that is most critical, as the articles state. In fact the total theoretical biomass of the planet is determined by the amount of phosphorus.,1518,690450,00.html

yoshhash's picture
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Joined: Sep 20 2008
Posts: 271
Re: Peak phosphorus, who knew?

This and other peaks have been discussed for years at  I believe that this crisis does have a reasonably achievable interim solution though, with urine diversion. 

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