Sustainable Phosphorus measures: Strategies and technologies for achieving Phosphorus security

Publication Type:
Journal article
Cordell, Dana and White, Stuart 2013, 'Sustainable Phosphorus measures: Strategies and technologies for achieving Phosphorus security', M D P I AG, vol. 3, pp. 86-116.
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Phosphorus underpins the world?s food systems by ensuring soil fertility, maximising crop yields, supporting farmer livelihoods and ultimately food security. Yet increasing concerns around long-term availability and accessibility of the world?s main source of phosphorus?phosphate rock, means there is a need to investigate sustainable measures to buffer the world?s food systems against the long and short-term impacts of global phosphorus scarcity. While the timeline of phosphorus scarcity is contested, there is consensus that more efficient use and recycling of phosphorus is required. While the agricultural sector will be crucial in achieving this, sustainable phosphorus measures in sectors upstream and downstream of agriculture from mine to fork will also need to be addressed. This paper presents a comprehensive classification of all potential phosphorus supply- and demand-side measures to meet long-term phosphorus needs for food production. Examples range from increasing efficiency in the agricultural and mining sector, to technologies for recovering phosphorus from urine and food waste. Such measures are often undertaken in isolation from one another rather than linked in an integrated strategy. This integrated approach will enable scientists and policy-makers to take a systematic approach when identifying potential sustainable phosphorus measures. If a systematic approach is not taken, there is a risk of inappropriate investment in research and implementation of technologies and that will not ultimately ensure sufficient access to phosphorus to produce food in the future. The paper concludes by introducing a framework to assess and compare sustainable phosphorus measures and to determine the least cost options in a given context.
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