Phosphorus is a necessary part of all plants. It helps plants convert nutrients into usable building blocks which help them grow. It is one of the three main nutrients most commonly found in fertilizers, and is the “P” in the NPK balance that is listed on fertilizers. Phosphorus helps grow the world’s food supply, and surprisingly there is a threatened supply of it. When it comes to easily mineable phosphorus that is. In terms of other forms, phosphorus is plentiful:
That is because phosphorus can be found in the manure of animals. As shown in the map above, manure is plentiful in rural areas as well as populated areas. To create the map above, “researchers used data on livestock density and calculated the annual amount of phosphorus excreted by cattle, pigs, chickens, sheep, and goats globally – as much as a whopping 130,000 kilograms per square kilometer.” (Crowell)
The areas in red represent space where manure-based phosphorus is widely available but underutilized. However abundant, many of the regions on the map that are shaded in red represent low income/ small family farming. The resources needed to recycle manure for it’s phosphorus content can be expensive, which is why mostly large agricultural companies are currently utilizing this method.
Researchers hope that maps like this will encourage countries with abundant and unused phosphorus reserves to support phosphorus recycling. Recycling phosphorus would have the effect of reducing imports and eliminating manure from water supplies.
Written by: Sean Halpin