The notion of a phosphorus (P) circular economy provides the philosophy, framework, and opportunity to enable food production systems to become more efficient, sustainable, and resilient to a future P scarcity or sudden price shock. Whilst P recovery and recycling are central strategies for closing the P cycle, additional gains in environmental performance of food systems can be obtained by further minimising the amounts of P (a) introduced into the food system by lowering system P demand and (b) lost from the system by utilising legacy P stores in the landscape. This minimisation is an important cascading component of circularisation because it reduces the amounts of P circulating in the system, the amounts of P required to be recycled/recovered and the storage of unused P in the landscape, whilst maintaining agricultural output. The potential for circularisation and minimisation depends on regional differences in these P flow dynamics. We consider incremental and transformative management interventions towards P minimisation within circular economies, and how these might be tempered by the need to deliver a range of ecosystem services. These interventions move away from current production philosophies based on risk-averse, insurance-based farming, and current consumption patterns which have little regard for their environmental impact. We argue that a greater focus on P minimisation and circularisation should catalyse different actors and sectors in the food chain to embrace P sustainability and should empower future research needs to provide the confidence for them to do so without sacrificing future regional food security.
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