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Phosphorous: A Vital Non-Renewable Resource - Matt Taylor (ADAS)

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  • There it is.
  • And it is fairly important when it come to life. It is essential for the growth of plants, animals and humans – not sure about Zebedee?
  • How important for life? Well it is in RNA and DNA.
  • Phosphorus equals food.
  • Our ability to grow the amount of food we currently produce is dependent upon phosphate fertilizer.
  • There is a growing demand for food and foods that is more phosphorus intensives among the current population of the world. And of course the thing with having six billion people you soon end up with more...
  • Our ability to feed the current world population is dependent upon fertilisers like phosphorus and pesticides and herbicides. It is by no means certain that an expanding population will continue to be fed. In ecological terms, phosphorus is often a limiting factor in many environments; i.e. the availability of phosphorus governs the rate of growth of many organisms.
  • And we get phosphorus by digging it out of the ground. An energy intensive process.
  • And like other things that are dug out of the ground. We will eventually reach of peak of production and then a tailing off of supply.
  • Cheap fertilizers are a thing of the past. Plus china and others are exporting less (or not at all!) This increase has mainly been driven by a recently imposed 135% export tariff imposed by China. Double whammy since the price also fluctuates according to the price of oil.
  • Stack of phosphogypsum Decreasing quality of phosphorus reserves, quantity of cadmium (and other metals) is increasing Crops can absorb cadmium from the soil Cadmium is toxic to plants, animals and micro-organisms (is a limit in soil and grain) Increasing extraction, processing and transport costs
  • Needs to be used carefully. Eutrophication from water pollution is the main cause of algal blooms (fresh water systems)

Phosphorous: A Vital Non-Renewable Resource - Matt Taylor (ADAS) Phosphorous: A Vital Non-Renewable Resource - Matt Taylor (ADAS) Presentation Transcript

  • Phosphorus: A Vital Non-Renewable Resource Farming Futures Workshop Thursday, 11 November 2010 Matt Taylor: Environmental Scientist
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  •     ?
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  • P 15 30.97 Phosphorus =
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  • Soils in the UK are naturally deficient in phosphorus So we need to add phosphorus to supply plant needs Historically livestock manures used, but more recently phosphate fertilisers
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  • “ We can get around declining oil production by using alternatives: but we have no alternatives to rock phosphate”. Andy Barr, Farmers Weekly, June 2009
  • Source: Cordell, D., Drangert, J-O. and White, S. (2009).
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  • We’ve used up the good stuff!!!
  • Overall phosphate application rate for Great Britain British Survey of Fertiliser Practice (2009)
  • There is another way….
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  • Organic materials: a valuable source of phosphorus
    • Livestock manures
    • Biosolids
    • Compost
    • Digestate (manure-based)
    • Paper crumble (biological treated)
    • Mushroom compost
    • BioCompost
    • etc.
  • Estimated quantities of organic materials recycled to land in the UK Type Fresh weight (million tonnes) Livestock manure 90 Biosolids 3-4 Compost 1.3 Paper crumble 0.7 Digestate 0.1 Industrial ‘wastes’ 6-7
  • Typical total nutrient content of various organic materials (kg/tonne fresh weight) The “Fertiliser Manual (RB209)” Material type Dry matter (%) Nitrogen (N) Phosphate (P 2 O 5 ) Potash (K 2 O) Cattle FYM 25 6.0 3.2 8.0 Pig slurry 4 3.6 1.8 2.4 Biosolids 25 11 18 0.6 Green compost 60 7.5 3.0 5.5 Paper crumble 30 7.5 3.8 0.4
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  • In summary
    • Population growth will increase the demand for phosphorus fertiliser
    • Rock phosphate reserves and quality are declining
    • Farming in the UK is not sustainable without phosphorus:
      • - We need to focus on the efficient use of renewable resources, such as livestock manures, compost, biosolids, digestate etc.
  • Thank you! Farming Futures Workshop Thursday, 11 November 2010 Any questions?