Phosphorus is one of the three macronutrients that crops require in large amounts in order to grow. Phosphate rock is main raw material from which phosphorus fertilizer products are obtained. Concerns have been expressed about a possible “peak” in world phosphate rock production, which could contribute to rising agricultural commodity prices and to food insecurity.
While some researchers predict that phosphorus will be completely depleted in 50–100 years and peak phosphorus to be reached in approximately 2030, the International Fertilizer Development Center in their “World Phosphate Reserves and Resources” report estimates that global phosphate rock resources will last for several hundred years.
Many experts do not agree with the “peak phosphate” theory for the following reasons:
- The level of phosphate reserves is regularly revised upward with deposit discoveries, technical evolution, and increases in commodity prices.
- Modeling of future phosphate rock demand has not been adequate to establish how quickly reserves could be exhausted.
Potential peak in phosphorus demand
A potential peak in phosphorus demand should also be investigated. There is a need to increase phosphorus levels to a critical level that optimizes phosphorus availability to plants while maintaining soil fertility. The steady improvement of soil phosphorus levels in Asian and Latin American countries, possibly leading to a peak in world phosphate fertilizer demand by 2050, is a scenario that has so far been overlooked.
The fertilizer industry is committed to the sustainable use of all phosphorus resources.
It encourages research and best nutrient management practices for better recycling of all safe phosphorus sources of organic and inorganic origin.
The accurate determination of this peak relies on knowledge of the total global phosphate reserves and the future demand for rock phosphate.