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


The NPR story went on to talk with urinentrepreneurs who began a phosphorus business at a church ladies book group. Or was it choir? Regardless, they have a test farmer now, too. I believe this is in Vermont? Anyone else hear the whole story?



The agricultural problem may look like its the easiest, but regulating the agricultural industry is far from easy, so I think that harvesting phosphorus from wastewater is actually the low hanging fruit, politically speaking.


But it isn’t a long term solution in the sense of a fix, it is a long term solution in the sense of it is the last we should look at on the list. All point sources combine total about 20% of the phosphorus load on the system. That means upgrading every municipal water system and factory to achieve 100% capture would be smaller than the effect of just bringing non-compliant farms in the Western Basin up to existing recommendations. That cost would also largely fall on a few of the poorest cities in the country. Put the same funding to agriculture in the Maumee river basin and you will have much larger reduction in waste phosphorous.


While I think this is much ado about nothing, nonetheless it adds to the large and ever-growing list of reasons to switch to smaller, sustainable farming practices, and also to vastly cut down on factory farming and meat and dairy consumption in general.


My bad; I’d thought that the deposits on Nauru were created by a few million years of fossilised seabird droppings rather than geologic processes. Nope.

Would guano-sourced phosphorus come anywhere close to meeting global demand?


I doubt any single source would meet global demand.

Great, then that also should be done. Happily life is not a series of binary choices.


It is when we don’t have a spare few tens of billions around for minor improvements.


Improving our waste reclamation processes is a goal with benefits far beyond phosphorus capture. That’s just one of the upsides.


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