Are We Running Out Of Phosphorus & Fertilizer?

In the guide below, we discuss the world’s phosphate (rock phosphate to be specific), phosphorus, and fertilizer resources.

We outline how much we have left, whether we might run out, what happens if we do, along with discussing the remaining resources of other types of inorganic fertilizer like nitrogen fertilizer too.

 

Summary – The World’s Phosphorus & Fertilizer Resources

Phosphorus vs Phosphate – What’s The Difference

We outline the difference in the guide below

In this guide though, we are mainly referring to phosphorus being obtained from rock phosphate (which is used for inorganic phosphate fertilizers)

 

What We Use Phosphorus For, & Why It’s Important

Phosphorus is used in a number of applications across society, which we list in the guide below

One of the main uses for phosphorus is for inorganic phosphate fertilizers, that we use on a large scale for agriculture, & specifically food production 

 

The Use Of Rock Phosphate & Phosphorus In Commercial Inorganic Fertilizers

The large majority of rock phosphate that we extract/mine in society is used to make commercial inorganic phosphate fertilizer products

 

How Much Phosphorus We Have Left On Earth – Resources, & Reserves

The total amount of rock phosphate resources on Earth is potentially in the the hundreds of thousands of million metric tons – although, only a certain share of these resources are economically feasible to mine or extract due to the level of concentration of rock phosphate and phosphorus in deposits

In 2021, global rock phosphate reserves were estimated at 71 billion tons, although some reports say exact reserve quantities are either uncertain, or debated for several key reasons

Morocco has three quarters of the world’s rock phosphate reserves

 

Total Phosphate Production, & Countries That Produce The Most Rock Phosphate

In 2020, world mining production of phosphate rock was 223 million tons

China, and Morocco & Western Sahara produce the most rock phosphate

 

How Much Phosphorus We Consume Per Year

The listed amazonaws.com pdf document contains P2O5 consumption data

 

Are We Running Out Of Phosphorus? – Potential For Shortages

Shortages of phosphorus and phosphorus fertilizer can occur in different geographic regions at different times, but, several reports indicate they aren’t caused by a scarcity of rock phosphate resources

 

Will We Run Out Of Phosphorus? If So, When?

The estimates for when we will run out of reserves of rock phosphate range from a few decades, all the way to having 2000 years left

Other reports say we don’t know for sure how much rock phosphate is left

In reality, we also have to consider that phosphorus can be extracted, recycled or produced from other sources other than rock phosphate too

 

What Happens If We Run Out Of Phosphorus?

If rock phosphate used for phosphorus becomes more scarce, factors like price and availability could be impacted

 

Is Phosphorus A Renewable Resource?

Rock phosphate is not renewable – it’s finite

However, there are several ways potential ways to source phosphorus from other sources, and phosphorus has the potential to be recycled and re-used.

These points may make phosphorus more circular as a mineral or resource

 

Conserving Phosphorus, Using Phosphorus More Sustainably/Efficiently, & Sourcing Phosphorus From Other Sources To Augment Supply

There might be ways to conserve phosphorus, or use phosphorus more sustainably or efficiently

There might also be ways to extract and source phosphorus from sources other than rock phosphate in order to increase the available supply

We list some of these potential ways in the guide below

 

Are We Running Out Of Nitrogen For Fertilizer?

Nitrogen fertilizers combine nitrogen from the atmosphere, and hydrogen mainly sourced from natural gas, to make ammonia.

Nitrogen in the atmosphere is reasonably abundant. 

We’ve previously written about how much natural gas we might have left in the world in this guide.

Overall though, nitrogen doesn’t seem to face the same scarcity issues as phosphate rock, but nitrogen fertilizers can go through temporary periods of shortages (for which we list the potential reasons in the guide below)

 

Are We Running Out Of Potassium For Fertilizer?

Potassium likely faces a similar situation to phosphorus, with potassium coming from potash reserves.

As these reserves/deposits of potash are depleted, potassium fertilizers could become more expensive if extraction activities or other activities that produce potassium become more costly.

 

Other Fertilizer Nutrients, & Types Of Fertilizer

Sulphur is one of the other main nutrients that can be included in fertilizers apart from nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Additionally, NPK mixed/all purpose fertilizers, and organic fertilizers (like animal manure, compost mixes, etc) are some of the other types of fertilizers that can be used. 

 

The Impact That Excess Nitrogen & Phosphorus May Have On The Environment

Excess reactive nitrogen and phosphorus can be introduced to the biosphere, particularly from the use of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers in agriculture.

There can be a range of environmental effects from this.

We discuss this in more detail in the guide below.

 

Firstly … Phosphate vs Phosphorus – What’s The Difference?

Phosphorus is a chemical element, or a mineral

Phosphates are the naturally occurring form of the element phosphorus. science.howstuffworks.com notes that ‘Phosphorus shows up in nature as phosphate (PO43-)’

Phosphates are sometimes described as chemical compounds containing phosphorus

science.howstuffworks.com describes phosphates as the following: ‘Phosphates’ is a broad term that describes any chemical containing a group of linked oxygen and phosphorus atoms’

The meaning of phosphates differs depending on the area it is being defined in. For example, wikipedia.org outlines that ‘In mineralogy and geology, phosphate refers to a rock or ore containing phosphate ions … [where] Inorganic phosphates are mined to obtain phosphorus for use in agriculture and industry’, whereas ‘In chemistry, a phosphate is an anion, salt, functional group or ester derived from a phosphoric acid.’

So, phosphate can mean a number of things, but in this guide, we are mainly referring to phosphorus in the context of being obtained from rock phosphate for use in inorganic/synthetic fertilizer.

As wikipedia.org indicates ‘The predominant source of phosphorus in modern times is phosphate rock’

 

What Do We Use Phosphorus For, & Why Is It Important?

Phosphorus is important because it is used in some critical applications across society.

One of the main uses for phosphorus is in inorganic fertilizer – phosphorus is a key nutrient for plant life.

Fertilizers play a critical role in modern agricultural production, and consequently food production too.

Aside from it’s use in fertilizer, phosphorus can also be used in pesticides, baking powder, detergents, plasticisers, fireworks, matches, and more.

 

From wikipedia.org:

… rock phosphate is a key ingredient in many inorganic fertilizers [and] The vast majority of phosphorus compounds mined are consumed as fertilisers.

An example of one crop that takes up large amounts of phosphorus is soy

 

From science.howstuffworks.com:

… we mine phosphorus in the form of phosphate rock [and …] Ninety percent of the phosphate rock we mine today is used to make fertilizers for agriculture and food production

Phosphorus is one of the main ingredients in fertilizers because it helps plants grow more quickly and increases crop yields

Food production requires a lot of phosphorus (in addition to the other essential nutrients, nitrogen and potassium)

 

How Rock Phosphate & Phosphorus Are Used In Fertilizer

Both extension.umn.edu and wikipedia.org explain how rock phosphate and phosphorus are used in inorganic agricultural fertilizers (manufactured commercial phosphate fertilizers)

The main source for phosphorus is the raw material rock phosphate 

In the past, and to a very minor extent now, rock phosphate was ground up and used directly as a fertilizer itself

But currently, the vast majority of rock phosphate is processed into phosphoric acid first and then used in the manufacture of fertilizer (sciencedirect.com notes this too, in addition to the above sources)

The rock phosphate undergoes a process (a wet or dry process) that produces phosphoric acid, which then undergoes further steps and can be combined with other chemicals like ammonia to produce phosphate fertilizer

From wikipedia.org: ‘Phosphate rock remains a feedstock in the fertiliser industry, where it is treated with sulfuric acid to produce various “superphosphate” fertiliser products’

 

How Much Phosphorus Do We Have Left On Earth? – Resources, & Reserves

There appears to be a significant amount of both rock phosphate resources and reserves left in the ground.

It’s worth noting that of the phosphate rock left in the ground, only a certain share of all deposits have a high enough concentration of phosphorus in them to make them economically feasible to extract and use. This matters when projecting how much rock phosphate can practically be extracted.

Morocco by far has the largest reserves of rock phosphate of all countries

 

Total Resources

Although quadrillions of tons of phosphorus exist in the Earth’s crust, these are currently not economically extractable (wikipedia.org)

 

The listed usaid.gov pdf document indicates that estimates of total world phosphate rock resources could be into the hundreds of thousands of million metric tons. They make comments of resources and reserves that are concentrated vs not concentrated, and mention how there are many unexplored deposits and small deposits that aren’t included in the estimates.

 

wikipedia.org outlines that the concentration of phosphorus in phosphate rock matters when determining how much phosphorus can be extracted from current phosphate rock resources

They also say ‘Phosphorus comprises about 0.1% by mass of the average rock, and consequently, the Earth’s supply is vast, though dilute’

 

Total Reserves

In 2021, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimated that economically extractable phosphate rock reserves worldwide are 71 billion tons … (wikipedia.org)

 

In 2017, [it was] estimated [there was] 68 billion tons of world reserves [of phosphate rock,] where reserve figures refer to the amount assumed recoverable at current market prices (wikipedia.org)

 

… exact reserve quantities [of phosphorus] remain uncertain … (wikipedia.org)

 

Phosphorus reserve figures are intensely debated [with some reports saying there is] little external verification [for some estimates in some countries] 

 

Which Countries Have The Largest Rock Phosphate Reserves?

From news.mongabay.com: ‘… Morocco [controls] nearly three-quarters of the world’s reserves [of rock phosphate], some of which lie in occupied and disputed Western Sahara.’

 

According to statista.com, the countries with the largest phosphate rock reserves in 2021, in millions of metric tons, were Morocco at 50,000, China at 3,200, Egypt at 2,800, and Algeria at 2,200

 

Total Phosphate Production, & Countries That Produce The Most

China, and Morocco & Western Sahara produce the most rock phosphate

 

Total Production

In 2021, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimated that … world mining production [of phosphate rock] in 2020 was 223 million tons … (wikipedia.org)

 

Countries That Produce The Most Rock Phosphate

According to feeco.com, the top phosphate rock producing countries in 2020 were China at 90 million metric tons, Morocco & Western Sahara at 37 million metric tons, and the US at 24 million metric tons

 

From news.mongabay.com: … nearly all [rock phosphate] is mined in North Africa …

 

How Much Phosphorus Do We Consumer Per Year?

We couldn’t find phosphorus or rock phosphate consumption rate data, but the amazonaws.com pdf contains consumption information on P2O5, which is phosphorus pentoxide

 

Are We Running Out Of Phosphorus? – Potential For Phosphorus Shortages

Shortages can occur temporarily in different geographic regions, but, at this point in time, they seem to be caused by factors other than global rock phosphate resources/reserves running out.

 

The issue [of peak phosphorus production] was raised as a debate on whether phosphorus shortages might be imminent around 2010, which was largely dismissed after USGS and other organizations increased world estimates on available phosphorus resources, mostly in the form of additional resources in Morocco (wikipedia.org)

 

[Shortages of nitrogen and phosphorus can region dependent …] Africa, for example, suffers from a shortage of phosphorus and nitrogen, whereas the U.S., India and China are in heavy surplus [in 2021] (news.mongabay.com)

 

Will We Run Out Of Phosphorus? If So, When?

The estimates for when we might run out of phosphorus seem to be wide ranging:

– Some reports have indicated there’s only a few decades of resources or reserves left

– Some reports have indicated there’s 200 to 300 years of resources or reserves left

– Some reports say there is up to 2000 years of resources or reserves left

– Some reports say we don’t know for sure how much resources or reserves we have left

– Some reports indicate that estimates only take into account rock phosphate and not other sources we can extract phosphorus from (which would extend supply)

 

How Many Years Worth Of Phosphorus Do We Have Left?

– Lower Estimates

From wikipedia.org:

The production of phosphorus may have peaked before 2011 and some scientists predict reserves will be depleted in before the end of the 21st Century

According to [other] researchers, Earth’s commercial and affordable phosphorus reserves are expected to be depleted in 50–100 years and peak phosphorus to be reached in approximately 2030.

 

From sciencenorway.no:

For the past decade, scientists have warned that phosphorus reserves are running low …

In 2008, some calculations predicted that the world would begin to experience scarcities of rock phosphorus as early as 2030. 

In recent years, scientists have regularly sounded warnings of a looming crisis. In 2019, for example, the British newspaper The Guardian wrote that we only have a few decades of consumption left.

 

– Medium Estimates

From wikipedia.org:

[Based on …] economically extractable phosphate rock reserves worldwide [of] 71 billion tons … [and] Assuming zero growth, the reserves would thus last for 260 years 

[So] … supplies will last for several hundreds of years 

 

From sciencenorway.no

“The latest overview [assessment] of the world’s phosphate reserves  … shows that we have more than 250 years at current levels of consumption.”

[One researcher] was quoted in a 2013 blog post as saying, “In my long 50-year career, once every decade, people say we are going to run out of phosphorus. Each time this is disproven. All the most reliable estimates show that we have enough phosphate rock resources to last between 300 and 400 more years.”

 

– Higher Estimates

From sciencenorway.no:

Representatives from fertilizer producers themselves do not foresee any crisis.

“We have enough phosphorus for at least 2000 years at today’s levels of consumption,” [says one] fertilizer manufacturer …

Some researchers agree.

 

– There’s Uncertainty & Debate About How Much Phosphate We Have Left

As with the timing of peak oil, the question is not settled, and researchers in different fields regularly publish different estimates of the rock phosphate reserves (wikipedia.org)

 

From sciencenorway.no:

… estimates [of the world’s phosphate reserves] are often uncertain. They give an indication of the size of the deposits where rock phosphate is currently being mined, and the projections are based on how much phosphorus can be extracted using current technology and at a reasonable cost.

However, that doesn’t mean these are the only sources of rock phosphate. There may be many reserves elsewhere on the globe that are not being mined because they are more inaccessible, are less concentrated or are of lower quality.

 

Will We Run Out?

Probably not in the short term future.

From sciencenorway.no: ‘[A researcher and a professor that study] phosphorus in agriculture … both conclude that we’re not about to immediately run out of phosphorus.]’

 

Beyond that projection though, whether we will run out depends on a range of factors, including but not limited to:

– How much of the rock phosphate in the ground is economically feasible to mine

From wikipedia.org:

Phosphorus … is relatively scarce in concentrated forms, which are not evenly distributed across the Earth

The only cost-effective production method to date is the mining of phosphate rock, but only a few countries have significant commercial reserves.

 

– The extent and amount of production, and investment in additional production

From wikipedia.org: Estimates for future production [of phosphorus] vary significantly depending on modelling and assumptions on extractable volumes, but it is inescapable that future production of phosphate rock will be heavily influenced by Morocco in the foreseeable future

 

– Current, and also future demand

According to wikipedia.org: ‘… [the] annual demand [of phosphorus] is rising nearly twice as fast as the growth of the human population’

 

– Other factors that impact demand, supply/production, and availability of the resource

Availability for example can be influenced by geography, economic conditions, politics and existing trade relationships for countries.

 

From sciencenorway.no:

[Some places might have less access to phosphate supplies compared to others …]

“A rich country like Norway will not have trouble getting enough phosphorus,” at least not the way things stand today …

However, it is worth noting that the world’s reserves of rock phosphate are very unevenly distributed, from a geographical standpoint. By far the largest reserves are in Morocco and the occupied part of Western Sahara [and] “Europe and India have no viable phosphorus reserves as of today,” …

“We are consequently dependent on imports, and only China and Western Sahara have large quantities to export. China has introduced an export tariff to ensure they have enough for domestic use,” …

Thus, if major events such as war or conflict affect these areas, the world may still have trouble obtaining enough phosphorus.

 

What Happens If We Run Out Of Phosphorus?

Running out of phosphorus may impact things such as:

– The availability of phosphorus for fertilizer and other uses across society

– The price of phosphorus fertilizers, and other products with phosphorus in them 

 

The consequence [of scarcities of rock phosphorus] would first be dramatically increased fertilizer prices, and gradually declining crops (sciencenorway.no)

 

… rock phosphate is a key ingredient in many inorganic fertilizers [that …] Many agricultural systems depend on … [So] Rock phosphate shortages (or just significant price increases) might negatively affect the world’s food security … (wikipedia.org)

 

Having outlined the above, there can be other factors that impact the price of phosphorus fertilizers other than running out of rock phosphate.

news.climate.columbia.edu explains: ‘In 2008, phosphate rock prices spiked 800 percent because of higher oil prices, increased demand for fertilizer (due to more meat consumption) and biofuels, and a short-term lack of availability of phosphate rock. This led to surging food prices, which hit developing countries particularly hard.’

 

Is Phosphorus A Renewable Resource?

Rock phosphate resources and reserves are finite and replenish very slowly (over the period of thousands and millions of years), so technically, phosphorus and phosphate are not renewable.

However, it should be noted that there are ways to potentially extract phosphorus from other sources, and to recycle phosphorus, which may address some of the sustainability concerns with the non renewable status of rock phosphate.

 

Is Phosphorus Renewable?

… phosphate rock [is a] non-renewable ore (sciencedirect.com)

 

Phosphorus is a finite (limited) resource … (wikipedia.org)

 

From sciencenorway.no:

Nitrogen fertilizers can be produced in factories and are in practice a renewable resource … but the same is not true for phosphorus fertilizers

Currently, phosphorus is mined from rocks that contain the substance — called rock phosphate — that are mined in a few places around the world, especially in China and the Moroccan-occupied territory of Western Sahara.

And these resources cannot last forever.

 

From news.mongabay.com:

Unlike nitrogen, there’s no way to manufacture phosphorus …

While there’s no immediate threat of [phosphorus] running out, the supply is finite and will at some point be depleted.

 

How Long Rock Phosphate Takes To Form

… we mine phosphorus in the form of phosphate rock, formed over millions of years by the bones and poo of ancient animals floating to the bottom of primeval seas … (science.howstuffworks.com)

 

The Circular Nature Of Phosphorus

Although phosphorus can’t be synthesized or manufactured, virtually all the phosphorus that started out on this planet remains here to this day — all the plants and animals that use it poop it right back out when they’re done with it (science.howstuffworks.com)

 

Conserving Phosphorus, Using Phosphorus More Sustainably, & Sourcing Phosphorus From Other Sources Across Society To Augment Supply

Beyond relying solely on the production of phosphorus from the mining of rock phosphate, there might be other options to ensure there are adequate supplies of phosphorus in the future.

These things might involve conserving phosphorus, using phosphorus more sustainably or efficiently, or adding to the supply of available phosphorus.

Some specific things might include:

– Reducing the use of phosphorus 

– Being more efficient with the use of phosphorus

– Reducing the loss or waste of phosphorus

– Mining rock phosphate that is contaminated with other elements and chemicals (i.e. lower quality deposits of rock phosphate), and decontaminating it

– Sourcing phosphorus from other sources other than rock phosphate, and extracting phosphorus from different sources

– Re-using or recycling existing waste or material that contains phosphorus

 

From sciencenorway.no:

[There might be] no immediate crisis [in terms of meeting society’s current need for phosphorus, but we might look for other ways to meet the current and future need, with recycling being one example]

Today’s use, for example, is not sustainable forever, even though there might be as much as 2,000 years of rock phosphate reserves.

 

sciencenorway.no list and explains other ways we might met the demand for phosphorus in the future, including (paraphrased except for where quotes are used):

– Recycling phosphorus similar to how nature does, like for example how ‘… animals and plants constantly return phosphorus and other nutrients back to the soil through excrement and dead tissue’

– Return phosphorus back to agricultural fields, by finding a way to extract and use/recycling the phosphorus deposited in ‘… manure pits, in food waste, in sewage, or in the sludge from a fish farming facility.’. Although there are noted challenges in doing this, and sciencenorway.no explains these challenges 

– Extracting/capturing and recycling phosphorus found in food, toilet waste, waste water. Using bacteria for phosphorus extraction in these waste, or using algae that can grow on waste, might be two methods to do this. Future toilets (like vacuum toilets) and sewerage systems might also make it easier to capture and use phosphorus nutrients (as biogas and fertilizers for example) found in waste

 

wikipedia.org indicates there might be more things that can be done in agriculture and sanitations systems in order to postpone peak phosphorus, such as reducing and reusing phosphorus, and recycling of phosphorus across different areas, with one example being ‘… greater recycling of human and animal wastes back into the environment’

In their guide, wikipedia.org outlines specific ways that:

– Phosphorus use might be reduced, phosphate loss can be reduced, and phosphate can be obtained from other sources (such as animal sources) across agricultural practices

– Phosphorus can be recycled with the reuse of animal manure and human excreta in agriculture

– Phosphorus can be extracted from sewage sludge

They also note that the second two points have their challenges and limitations though, such as cost, scale, and technological.

 

sciencenorway.no also indicates that 

[We may have the ability to access more phosphate in the future, but at an increased cost …]

… if the best rock phosphate begins to run out — and technology evolves — lower quality sources may suddenly become of interest

[We could for example mine rock phosphate] contaminated with cadmium or uranium [and] heavy metals or radioactive substances … [but we would have to decontaminate it to use it for phosphorus in fertilizer]

It’s too costly right now for this kind of decontamination to be worthwhile [right now, but if we find a way to do it,] agriculture will still have access to fertilizers, but farmers will have to pay more for it. And this extra cost will be passed on to consumers, so we will have to pay more for food.

 

news.climate.columbia.edu also lists some other options for managing phosphorus resources in a more sustainable way, and for reducing demand and finding alternate sources of phosphorus.

 

Are We Running Out Of Nitrogen For Fertilizer?

Nitrogen fertilizers are perhaps the most commonly used commercial inorganic fertilizers in the world. 

 

Are We Running Out Of Nitrogen?

In regards to how nitrogen fertilizer is made …

– anz.ipni.net notes ‘All N fertilizer begins with a source of hydrogen gas and atmospheric N that are reacted to form ammonia’

– And, fertilizerseurope.com explains ‘[Nitrogen fertilizers are the largest product group, and the process starts by mixing nitrogen from the air with hydrogen from natural gas at high temperature and pressure to create ammonia’

Unlike phosphorus, there’s almost unlimited amounts of nitrogen in the atmosphere that can be used for nitrogen fertilizer, so it’s unlikely we run out of nitrogen.

The hydrogen mainly comes from the fossil fuel natural gas.

We’ve previously written about how much natural gas we might have left in the world in this guide.

It seems unlikely we run out anytime soon.

 

On short timescales, nitrogen often runs out … But that scarcity never lasts long, geologically speaking: The atmosphere—which is about 80 percent nitrogen—represents an almost infinite reservoir (theatlantic.com)

 

Nitrogen fertilizers can be produced in factories and are in practice a renewable resource … but the same is not true for phosphorus fertilizers (sciencenorway.no)

 

Potential For Nitrogen Fertilizer Shortages

theguardian.com notes that temporary global nitrogen fertilizer shortages can be caused by factors such as arctic blasts and hurricanes disrupting fertilizer production, and natural gas prices increasing significantly (as natural gas is a key input in nitrogen)

In these instances, fertilizer manufacturers have less fertilizer to sell, or farmers can delay purchases because of the price

 

Reducing Nitrogen Fertilizer Use/Need

theguardian.com notes that one way farmers might reduce their nitrogen fertilizer use/need might be if farmers ‘… [plant] more soya beans and less corn’

 

Are We Running Out Of Potassium For Fertilizer?

Potassium is the third major plant and crop nutrient after nitrogen and phosphorus (wikipedia.org)

Potassium is mined from potash (a potassium rich salt), which has finite supplies.

As sciencenorway.no indicates: ‘Fields need other nutrients, including potassium and sulphur [and] “We rarely talk about the fact there may also be shortages [of potassium or sulphur],”’

 

Will We Run Out Of Potassium From Potash?

Potassium seems to be in a similar position to phosphorus.

It seems we won’t run out of potassium soon, but it could face a similar future to phosphorus in that it could become more expensive when currently mined deposits become depleted.

 

In 2020, the global reserves of potash were estimated at more than 3.6 billion tonnes (potassium oxide equivalent) (nrcan.gc.ca)

 

investingnews.com provides a list of various places all over the world with reasonably large potash deposits.

 

From forbes.com:

The world will never run out of phosphorus or potassium; there’s huge amounts out there in the oceans, and in fact that’s where the runoff from our phosphate rock and potash-based fertilizers go.

But when those supplies run out, the process of recovering phosphate from agricultural waste, runoff, and sewage will be so expensive that many forms of agriculture that depend on cheap NPK fertilizers will suffer.

[There would likely be a significant] change in cost that mining it from the ocean would entail.

 

Other Fertilizer Nutrients, & Types Of Fertilizer

Other Fertilizer Nutrients

Sulphur is also used in fertilizer, and is considered as one of the four major plant nutrients amongst nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. 

As sciencenorway.no indicates: ‘Fields need other nutrients, including potassium and sulphur [and] “We rarely talk about the fact there may also be shortages [of potassium or sulphur],”

We haven’t provided data on how much we have left and whether it will run out in this guide.

 

Other Fertilizer Types

Oher fertilizer types can include:

– NPK (which is an ‘all around fertilizer’ of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, rather than concentrating on just one of the nutrients)

– Organic matter like animal manure, compost mixes, and so on

 

So, Are We Running Out Of Fertilizer In General?

Phosphorus

It seems we won’t run out anytime soon.

The cost might become more expensive if extraction, production becomes more expensive (when current reserves and rock phosphate deposits start depleting)

If recycling/re-use and new forms of phosphorus supply augmentation are costly, this could increase the cost of phosphorus too.

 

Nitrogen

It seems we won’t run out anytime soon.

Nitrogen is abundant, and hydrogen can be sourced from natural gas (although the scarcity of natural gas and other resources that can produce hydrogen should be considered) 

 

Potassium

It seems we won’t run out anytime soon.

It likely faces a similar future to phosphorus.

 

Other Fertilizers

There exists other fertilizers for nutrients, other than the ones mentioned above.

They may be able to used as a supplement or a complete substitute to these fertilizers, although on a large scale, there could be various challenges to this.

It seems we have a relatively consistent supply of organic materials like animal manure and compost materials.

 

Potential Environmental Issues Relating To The Use Of Phosphorus Across Society

Much has been published about how excess phosphorus from our use in agriculture (via fertilizer), and other industries, may leach or run off into the environment, and contribute to a range of environmental issues in rivers, lakes, the ocean, the atmosphere, and so on.

Some of those problems include algal blooms, eutrophication and nutrient pollution, and more.

Excess nitrogen from nitrogen fertilizers can have a similar impact.

Nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the environment are part of the planetary boundaries concept too

Some of the publications that talk further about the impact of excess nitrogen and phosphorus in the environment are science.howstuffworks.com and news.mongabay.com

news.mongabay.com in particular discusses the impact of introducing excess reactive nitrogen and phosphorus into the biosphere

 

The environment is … an issue [with phosphate]. The release of nitrogen and phosphorus from agriculture leads to significant pollution of waterways across the globe (sciencenorway.no)

 

 

Sources

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_phosphorus

2. https://extension.umn.edu/phosphorus-and-potassium/understanding-phosphorus-fertilizers#process-619211

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phosphate

4. https://science.howstuffworks.com/phosphate.htm

5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/phosphate-rock

6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phosphorus

7. https://sciencenorway.no/agriculture-and-fisheries-environmental-contaminants/world-food-production-depends-on-phosphorus-are-we-about-to-run-out/1696149

8. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2021/02/phosphorus-pollution-fertilizer/617937/

9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fertilizer

10. https://anz.ipni.net/article/ANZ-3006

11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potash

12. https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2017/12/29/is-the-planet-really-in-danger-of-running-out-of-resources/?sh=3b4cdc17188d

13. https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/our-natural-resources/minerals-mining/minerals-metals-facts/potash-facts/20521

14. https://investingnews.com/daily/resource-investing/agriculture-investing/potash-investing/world-class-potash-deposits/

15. https://www.fertilizerseurope.com/fertilizers-in-europe/how-fertilizers-are-made/

16. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/nov/25/fertilizer-shortage-north-america-farmers-food-prices (the same article is also available and published at reuters.com)

17. https://news.mongabay.com/2021/09/nitrogen-the-environmental-crisis-you-havent-heard-of-yet/

18. https://feeco.com/2020-world-phosphate-rock-production-overview/

19. https://www.statista.com/statistics/681747/phosphate-rock-reserves-by-country/

20. https://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/Pnadw835.PDF

21. https://prd-wret.s3.us-west-2.amazonaws.com/assets/palladium/production/atoms/files/myb1-2018-phosp.pdf

22. https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2013/04/01/phosphorus-essential-to-life-are-we-running-out/

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