Sustainable Phosphorus Measures: Strategies and Technologies for Achieving Phosphorus Security
- Increase number of people fed per tonne phosphorus input, or, reduce total phosphorus demand while maintaining food/agricultural output;
- Reduce dependence on phosphorus imports (to reduce vulnerability to geopolitical dynamics and thereby increasing long-term access to phosphorus);
- Ensure healthy soils (no phosphorus-deficiency, no phosphorus accumulation, balanced nutrition and presence of organic matter);
- Ensure farmers needs are met (e.g., maintaining or increasing productivity; ensuring access to phosphorus fertilisers);
- Reduce losses and wastage where avoidable;
- Reduce eutrophication and pollution by preventing phosphorus from the food system from entering waterways.
|GOALS: Phosphorus security||ACTIONS: sustainable phosphorus measures|
|Reconsider profile of agriculture *||Diversify P sources **||Reconsider diets towards P-efficient foods||Increase phosphorus use efficiency||Increase recycling of phosphorus|
|Increase number of people fed per tonne P input, or reduce total P demand while maintaining food/agricultural output||★||★||★|
|Reduce dependence on P imports||★||★||★||★||★|
|Ensure healthy soils||★||★|
|Ensure farmers needs are met||★||★||★|
|Reduce losses and wastage||★||★||★|
|Reduce eutrophication & pollution||★||★|
2. Classifying Sustainable Phosphorus Measures
2.1. Supply Measures
|Sector||SUPPLY MEASURE (S)||DEMAND MEASURE (D)|
|Recycling (S1)||New source (S2)||Efficiency (D1)||Reduce demand (D2)|
|Mining (M)||MS1.1—mine tailings h||MS2.1—phosphate rock h||MD1.1—reduce avoidable losses||MD2.1—(all other measures)|
|Fertilizer (F)||FS1.1—phosphogypsum h||FS2.1—algae, seaweed||FD1.1—reduce avoidable losses||FD2.1—(AD2, LD2, PD2)|
|Agriculture (A)||AS1.1—crop waste b,d,e|
AS1.2—(LS1, PS1, WS1)
AD2.2—improved soil characteristics
|Livestock & Fisheries (L)||LS1.1—manure a,b,f|
|LS2.1—phosphate rock (supplements) h||LD1.1—fertilizer placement|
LD1.8—manure P reduction
LD2.2—improved soil characteristics
|Food production (P)||PS1.1—food production waste|
PS1.2—cooked food waste
|PS2.1—phosphate rock (additives) h||PD1.1—reduce avoidable losses|
PD1.2—producing food closer to demand
PD1.3—consumer food planning/preparation
|PD2.1—reduce P-intensive diets|
PD2.2—reduce per capita overconsumption
PD2.4—minimize use of P additives
|Wastewater & human excreta (W)||WS1.1—urine a,c|
WS1.3—greywater c, h
WS1.4—untreated wastewater a
WS1.5—treated effluent a
WS1.8—sludge ash d
|N/A||WD1.1—repairing cracked pipes|
WD1.2—minimizing sewer overflows
WD1.4—avoid dumping biosolids in water
WD1.5—reduce spreading biosolids on non-ag land
2.2. Demand Measures
- reducing avoidable losses and wastage, such as food spoilage during food processing and distribution). Schroder et al.  present a typology of phosphorus losses, differentiating between permanent and temporary losses and hence sustainable management responses;
- increasing efficiency, such as phosphorus uptake by crop roots; or
- reducing the total phosphorus demand through changing diets towards food that require less phosphorus input per nutritional output (i.e., reversing current trends towards meat and dairy as emerging economies like China and India increase in affluence  and reduce the already high rate of meat and dairy consumption in developed countries).
2.3. A Systems Approach
3. Sustainable Phosphorus Measures by Sector
3.1. Mining Sector
- Minimizing local environmental impacts, such as pollution/breaching of tailings dams;
- Investing in efficient technologies, such as for cadmium removal;
- Corporate social responsibility, particularly in the disputed region of Western Sahara. While ownership of the region is disputed, Morocco currently occupies Western Sahara and controls that region’s extensive phosphate rock reserves in defiance of UN resolutions [34,35]. Trading with Moroccan authorities for Western Sahara’s phosphate rock is condemned by the UN, and importing phosphate rock via Morocco has been boycotted by several Scandinavian firms ;
- Contribution of the industry to mitigating downstream impacts, in accordance with the principles and frameworks of Extended Producer Responsibility.
3.2. Fertilizer Sector
3.3. Agricultural Sector
- fertilizer selection to optimize the bioavailability of phosphorus (AS1.1, AS1.2, AS2.1);
- fertilizer use to maximize plant root’s opportunity to take up the phosphorus (AD1.1-AD1.4);
- crop selection to maximize plants ability to access more soil phosphorus or yield more crop per phosphorus accessed (AD2.1); and
- soil management to (a) ensure soil phosphorus is in solution and hence readily available to plant roots when they need it (AD1.6, AD2.2) and (b) to minimize permanent loss of soil phosphorus via wind and water erosion (AD1.5).
3.4. Livestock Sector
3.5. Food Production and Consumption Sector
3.6. The Wastewater and Sanitation Sector
4. Developing Integrated Sustainable Phosphorus Options
- Regulatory instruments, such as targets (e.g., recovery of phosphorus from excreta or manure, etc.); limits (e.g., discharge limits on phosphorus to sensitive waterways) or bans;
- Economic instruments such as taxes (e.g., phosphorus tax) or trading schemes (e.g., phosphorus trading scheme in a catchment);
- Communicative or educational instruments such as stakeholder engagement processes and outreach (e.g., workshops, seminars); developing stakeholder-specific resource material.
- Identify objectives and drivers, by seeking agreement amongst the key stakeholder regarding the key drivers and objectives, as these will influence the most suitable measures (e.g., pollution prevention, desire for renewable phosphorus fertilizers, farmer productivity) .
- Identify a baseline, or Business-as-Usual demand trajectory, sometimes called a reference case, which can explicitly show targets, and from which the impact of options can be compared .
- Identify and categorise the most comprehensive range of measures that could meet the objectives, and assess the P savings or yield associated with the measures.
- Estimate the annual amount of phosphorus saved (e.g., in “negatonnes per annum” in the case of efficiency options) or supplied (in the case of recycling options) for the selected options and represent these graphically in a “supply curve” (such as Figure 9).
- Based on the cost-effectiveness of options, construct a realistic and achievable portfolio of options for implementation, based on the complementarity of different options, and taking into account other parameters beyond unit cost, such as risk, environmental impact or benefit, or even spread across sectors.
- initiating dialogue and consensus building between stakeholders;
- Facilitating or initiating a coordinated response to phosphorus scarcity, including independent research;
- Identifying key national policy priorities;
- Embedding knowledge of phosphorus sustainability issues into relevant educational curriculum, including practical aspects such as school garden that may be fertilized from organic waste produced from urine-diverting toilets and/or food and landscape waste compost.
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Cordell, D.; White, S. Sustainable Phosphorus Measures: Strategies and Technologies for Achieving Phosphorus Security. Agronomy 2013, 3, 86-116. https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy3010086
Cordell D, White S. Sustainable Phosphorus Measures: Strategies and Technologies for Achieving Phosphorus Security. Agronomy. 2013; 3(1):86-116. https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy3010086Chicago/Turabian Style
Cordell, Dana, and Stuart White. 2013. "Sustainable Phosphorus Measures: Strategies and Technologies for Achieving Phosphorus Security" Agronomy 3, no. 1: 86-116. https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy3010086