The phosphorus mass balance: identifying 'hotspots' in the food system as a roadmap to phosphorus security

Dana Cordell, Tina-Simone Schmid Neset, Timothy Prior
Current Opinion in Biotechnology 2012, 23 (6): 839-45
Phosphorus is a critical element on which all life depends. Global crop production depends on fertilisers derived from phosphate rock to maintain high crop yields. Population increase, changing dietary preferences towards more meat and dairy products, and the continuing intensification of global agriculture supporting this expansion will place increasing pressure on an uncertain, but finite supply of high-quality phosphate rock. Growing concern about phosphorus scarcity and security, coupled with the environmental impact of phosphorus pollution, has encouraged an increase in research exploring how phosphorus is used and lost in the food system-from mine to field to fork. An assessment of recent phosphorus flows analyses at different geographical scales identifies the key phosphorus 'hotspots', for example within the mining, agriculture or food processing sectors, where efficiency and reuse can be substantially improved through biotechnological approaches coupled with policy changes.

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