Peak Phosphorous

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.

Purple leaves

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.

Phosphorus cannot be manufactured or destroyed, and there is no substitute or synthetic version of it available.

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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

7 comments… add one
  • irishdutchuncle May 30, 2013, 12:25 pm

    is there any practical process whereby they can recover Phosphorus from seawater? (I think that was the way they originally got large quantities of Magnesium)

  • Charles,,,, May 30, 2013, 2:35 pm

    That is an unknown fact to most of the world…. I hear of those into organic gardening about the circle and it makes alot of sense, feed the rabbit’s the leftover green’s, pickings you don’t want from the garden, too wilted or such, use the dried stalk’s chopped for the rabbit’s and watch the mound of pellets build under the coop, layer it with starw,hay, leaves and such then dig it out every so often depending on the quantity of rabbit’s you maintain, till it into your veggie patch, or if the season is on use it as mulch to side dress the plants as well as mulch the row that isn’t planted, and the circle is formed,,,, I wonder how much “P” is in the pond water, or to dig out the light silt that build’s on the bottom of the pond, may be some very usable soil there… thank you for the update….

  • wilson May 30, 2013, 7:40 pm

    In my area phosphorous is banned as a fertilizer. It ends up getting into runoff and ends up in lakes and rivers creating excessive algae and aquatic weed growth that is bad for fish etc..

  • Pineslayer May 31, 2013, 12:52 am

    Great, just great. Maybe a black market for urine will pop up. Could be a job creator.

    • Expat May 31, 2013, 10:03 am

      You might want to check out how the phrase “Piss Poor” came about.

  • fubar May 31, 2013, 7:24 am

    from the article:

    “Yet, there are no international organizations or regulations that manage global phosphorus resources.”

    The UN is working on this. They recently put out a huge report that cries about how certain parts of the world control the P reserves and how it’s not fair and how modern agriculture is to blame for the world’s pollution. (not mentioning that back in the 70’s they said billions would die of starvation)

    Do we need to be more studious in our application of P so that waterways are not polluted and a large % goes to waste? YES

    –But we need someone who will truthfully report the actual pollution, you can’t tell me that the EPA is not out to squash productivity by regulating everything. Ask anyone who’s dealt with them on their own property or sees what is going on with the Cheseapeake Bay cleanup.

    It’s another crisis to be exploited. That’s why recently, the elites were pushing us to eat bugs (while they eat steak).

    Do we need to create a Global elite panel to decide how the P is used/distributed? HECK NO

    animal manures are great fertilizer, but ask anyone in the “organic business” (farmer) in order to create any yield to keep food on your own table, it’s not enough.

  • Ned Ludd May 31, 2013, 5:14 pm

    We could harvest the BS from Washington DC and have enough phosphorus for the entire planet!

    This is just one more essential element we are depleting due to our industrialized society. A few years ago I read where we have used up 95%+ of the known nickle reserves, nickle is used in steel, stainless steel and other metallurgical processes. Imagine a world without steel…


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