The world is running out of phosphorus, which threatens global food supply


#21

If anyone would like to do their part for peak phosphorus, stop applying it to your residential landscapes. In 20 years of testing soils from residential landscapes I have yet to have a soil test low in P. Most test very high for P due to decades of over application either of 20-20-20 (known as ‘balanced’ fertilizer even though plants don’t use those nutrients in that proportion) or manure over application.


#22

Well of course that’s what I meant. They need democracy damnit!


#23

Trilobites? I dunno, we have a few of those here in Utah already. Now if’n they’re oil soaked trilobites, Mister44, I’m all for bringin’ democracy to those Moroccon trilobites.


#24

Just Google “Ostara”, if you’re interested.


#25

China is making impressive improvements in fertilizer use efficiency. A paper was just released regarding a decade long project that saw tens of millions of Chinese farmers increase yields and substantially decrease fertilizer usage. So they are definitely working on their fertilizer issues.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-02792-7


#26

Utah has some neat ones (feel free to send me some) but Morocco has some of the best samples in the world with a multitude of species. They also have a healthy counterfeit business of trilobites, so be careful out there.


#27

In David Brin novel “Existence” that all men were required to urinate into a special cataleptic with the aim to stockpile urine. This is to help mitigate the phosphorous shortage.

I think it was also noted that also by law if they couldn’t recover their urine, then they had to pee out in side on the ground or in bushes…


#28

The idea of collecting urine as part of a process of stockpiling it for a further use just tickles me due to it having been done in the distant past for a variety of uses


#29

Pecunia non olet!


#30

Maybe they just need to start using white phosphorous.


#31

I’m failing to see any indication that the world is “running out” of anything other than the very cheapest phos. Even here in the comments you see plenty of suggestions for sustainable and/or very-hard-to-deplete sources, they just happen to cost a little more.


#32

It wouldn’t be the first time for the US. They’ve grabbed phosphate-rich territory before now:


#33

Just more price-pumping propaganda by Big Phospho.


#34

“Renewable” is not really a thing for guano unless you wait a very long time.

And for some relevant historical trivia…


#35

The phosphate mining in Nauru is rock phosphate and not guano. You are correct in that guano takes decades to decompose which is why it is referred to by some as a slow renewable. While the time may be a factor, it’s certainly much less so than waiting for the universe to create elemental phosphorus.


#36

Conceptually that might be a good idea in the long run, but it is really swinging at the hardest problem first instead of the low hanging fruit. The larger systems, Cleveland, St. Louis, and Toledo, already have phosphorus removal systems. Cleveland and St. Louis are already under consent decrees to upgrade their systems at an estimated cost of 3 billion for Cleveland and 4.7 billion for St. Louis. In contrast the largest cause of phosphorous loading in both systems is agricultural runoff and we’ve done a lot less to address that problem. Better education on timing phosphorous application and alternative tilling methods would do more at a lower cost. The Ohio EPA had two really solid task force papers on the issue and while I haven’t seen a single paper that is as good for the Mississippi the general shape of the problem is the same.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0ahUKEwi_-cqAw-nZAhUKwVQKHbfaCtMQFgg5MAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.epa.ohio.gov%2Fportals%2F35%2Flakeerie%2Fptaskforce%2FTask_Force_Final_Report_April_2010.pdf&usg=AOvVaw33AKbWLJ3y4Z1rIR7PIPhu

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwi_-cqAw-nZAhUKwVQKHbfaCtMQFgg_MAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Flakeerie.ohio.gov%2FPortals%2F0%2FReports%2FTask_Force_Report_October_2013.pdf&usg=AOvVaw11Iyw9ehcUmVuFBIFquaml


#37

Lovely, so another environmental and social catastrophe neatly packaged in a way that makes it easy for Trump to cry “Chinese Hoax!” and make worse, rather than ameliorating in a timely fashion.


#38

I’m ok with that. I see a lot of long term solutions pushed to the side in favor of low hanging fruit until the long term solution is all but forgotten. I think improved education and methods are great ideas and people should get working on them right away side by side with beginning the long term work.


#39

Wow, way to be fatalist.


#40

Well, technically, I guess you can argue that the phosphorus “crisis” is an economic rather than existential problem, but if you access more expensive sources, fertilizer prices increase, food prices increase, poor people starve. Most will just quietly die, but a few might just get kind of ticked off about it. On another board I mentioned this and got blasted as a shill for “Big Agra” but the fact is that organic methods just cannot match the (unsustainable) productivity of the chemical industrial farming complex. Sustainable agricultural techniques are vital, but to make it work, we need to move lower on the food chain and lay off the addiction to so much red meat. Easier said than done, but there you go.