Should you be worried about Peak Phosphorous?
What IS Peak Phosphorous? Let’s start at the beginning. Phosphorous is the P in NPK. Those are the 3 elements that fertilizer strengths are measured in. They are the 3 main nutrients plants need to grow and thrive. In various forms it is a component of DNA, a player in cellular energy transport and a building block in cell membranes and bone. I have a potted bulb that doesn’t get enough phosphorous and because of that it doesn’t thrive and never blooms. Sounds like a small thing, but if the plant in question is a field of corn or a row of beloved heirloom tomatoes, slow growth and poor blossom set is a worrisome thing. I’ve seen this in my tomatoes, the undersides of tomato plant leaves, and the veins and stems turn purple.
The most common way to up phosphorous levels in industrial agriculture is to apply rock phosphorous. About 90 percent of the world’s known reserves are located in or are controlled by five countries: Morocco, Jordan, South Africa, the United States and China. And the known supplies are dwindling in quantity and quality. Phosphorus cannot be manufactured or destroyed, and there is no substitute or synthetic version of it available.
Can we just do without it? Eat more low-phosphorous foods?
People acquire the phosphorus they need from food. Phosphorous deficiencies can weaken bones and teeth, and cause joint pain.
We could do what our ancestors did, replenishing the supply in the soil by spreading animal waste, human waste and plant remains as fertilizer. Animals and humans excrete almost 100 percent of the phosphorus they consume in food. Of course, that would require the adoption of new or modified toilets by everyone in the free world. And likely require the ending of Confinement Feeding operations, in order to spread the manure around to states other than Iowa. I can imagine the chances of any of that happening.
No, we’re likely going to see more people with phosphorous deficiencies as prices rise and farmers scale back their usages. I think most people just won’t know it’s happening until they start showing signs. If you grow your own garden, fertilize with your family’s urine at the very least. It’s super easy, no composting or fermenting needed, just dilute with water. That way you recycle some of the phosphorous you have in your system. You won’t need to rely on long distance shipping of the rock.
So peak phosphorous? Well, we may be running out of the rock phosphorous, and some commercial food products may become even less nutritious because of it. But if you are already eating out of your garden, it can be a simple thing to recapture your waste phosphorous and put it right back in to your food stream. In delicious carrot or tomato form.
Prep smarter folks! Take control of your food! (and waste!)
- Calamity Jane