The Australian story of phosphorus: sustainability implications of global phosphate scarcity for a net food-producing nation
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for the growth of all living organisms including plants and animals, hence critical for food production. Mining of phosphate-rich deposits of guano and phosphate rock have played an important part in feeding the world in the past 100 years, and supporting the Australian economy. However, increasing environmental, economic, geopolitical and social concerns about the short and long-term use of phosphate rock in agriculture means there is a need to initiate a policy discussion, research and action to address the pertinent challenges both at the international and national levels. A peak in global production of phosphate rock is expected to occur by 2030 yet there are no alternatives currently on the market that could replace phosphate rock on any significant scale. This paper addresses the sustainability implications of global phosphate scarcity for Australia. Australia has naturally phosphorus-deficient soils while simultaneously has invested in phosphorus-demanding export industries like beef and dairy. This paper considers the historical and present situation in addition to possible future pathways. A distinction is made between ‘hard landing’ responses to phosphorus scarcity, including further fertilizer price spikes, increasing environmental costs and reduced fertiliser availability and hence crop growth, and preferred ‘soft landing’ responses such as diversifying sources of phosphorus fertilizers, including recovering from organic waste streams, and demand management options that are likely to ensure a smoother transition. As a phosphate-dependent nation heavily dependent on agricultural exports, the Australian situation is of global interest.
global phosphorus scarcity, food production, Australia, phosphate rock, phosphorus recovery
Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-53767OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-53767DiVA: diva2:291749