Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Peak Phosphorous? Farming Faces Phosphate Shortfall

From InterPress Service:

Scarcity of phosphate, an indispensable crop fertiliser, is worrying soil experts, given the voracious plans of Brazil and many other countries in the race for biofuel leadership.

A salt of phosphoric acid salt, phosphate is a chemical compound made up of a central phosphorous atom and four oxygen atoms.

Phosphorous is a "finite and irreplaceable" mineral, whose known reserves that are economically viable for exploitation could run out in 60 to 100 years if the current pace of global consumption continues, Euripedes Malavolta, veteran agronomist and researcher at the University of Sao Paulo, told Tierramérica.

"Without phosphorous there will be no agriculture, nor biofuels, nor life. Humanity will end," he said. Other minerals, like nitrogen, potassium, cobalt, magnesium and molybdenum, are also essential, but their sources are not as limited and, except for the first two, their consumption is relatively low.

"Phosphate has the risk running out before petroleum does," José Oswaldo Siqueira, professor of soil microbiology at the Federal University of Lavras, told a bio-energy conference held last month in Sao Paulo. ...MORE