Scientists have warned that the world supply of Phosphate is on a decline. The main user of phosphate worldwide is agriculture. Since all the plants require it in order to grow a good yield, a proper supply of phosphate fertilizer is necessary. A reduction in its availability will create a tense situation worldwide and a serious issue for the countries who are dependent on others for its supply.
Placing China at the second position, Morocco holds majority of global supplies of rock phosphate in it. Algeria and Syria are the next biggest in the line. Countries like Europe, India and Australia are totally dependent on these for phosphate imports.
As rock phosphate is a finite resource and most of its supplies are mined in politically unstable places, many countries having little or no reserves are under great threat.
With the recent estimation of the growing demand and the reduced supply, scientists predict that moment of complete exhaustion of the resource is closer than ten years.
Speaking about the issue, Martin Blackwell, an agriculture expert at Rothamsted Research said, “Phosphate supply is potentially a very big problem. The population is growing and we are going to need more food.”
Blackwell added that if the current rate usage of phosphate fertilizer is not reduced soon, many countries including the US, China and India will run out of their supplies before the next generation. Further, he warned, “There should be lot more effort being put in so we are ready to deal with it. It is time to wake up. It is one of the most important issues in the world today.”
In order to improve the yield large quantities of Phosphate fertilizers are added to the plants. However, the uptake capacity of plants is very low. Hence, most of the fertilizer remain as a residue in water bodies.
It is time that we start thinking about the political implications of the nearing crisis. The phosphate rich countries and importing countries might hold great grudge against each other in the nearing future. Also, the economic value of Phosphate fertilizer will rise and it may eventually run out.
Possible solutions available can be recycling phosphate from human sewage. New plant breeds that can use the mineral from the soil more effectively should be developed. Proper soil tests should be conducted that could help avoid the over application of fertilizers.
Farmers should minimize the use of mined phosphate. Sustainable use of phosphate can be done by shifting from plant-rich diets that are more efficient users of phosphate than meat-rich diets.