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Phosphorus food danger

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Guest human_*

This is why I'm not so hot on bio-fuels now "Straight up, no games".


And like many of you, I use to be "Oh yeah!!! Biofuels".


Just so all of you know.









Leo Lewis | June 25, 2008

BATTERED by soaring fertiliser prices and rioting rice farmers, the global food industry may also have to deal with a potentially catastrophic future shortage of phosphorus, scientists say.


Researchers in Australia, Europe and the US have given warning that the element, which is essential to all living things, is at the heart of modern farming and has no synthetic alternative, is being mined, used and wasted as never before.


Massive inefficiencies in the "farm-to-fork" processing of food and the soaring appetite for meat and dairy produce across Asia is stoking demand for phosphorus faster and further than anyone had predicted. Scientists say "peak phosphorus" could hit the world in just 30 years. Crop-based biofuels, whose production methods and usage suck phosphorus out of the agricultural system in unprecedented volumes, have made the problem many times worse, researchers in Brazil say.


Already, India is running low on matches as factories run short of phosphorus; the Brazilian Government has spoken of a need to nationalise privately held mines that supply the fertiliser industry and Swedish scientists are busily redesigning toilets to separate and collect urine in an attempt to conserve the precious element.


Dana Cordell, a senior researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney, said: "Quite simply, without phosphorus we cannot produce food. At current rates, reserves will be depleted in the next 50 to 100 years.


"Phosphorus is as critical for all modern economies as water. If global water supply were as concentrated as global phosphorus supply, there would be much, much deeper concern. It is amazing that more attention is not being paid to ensuring phosphorus security."


In the past 14 months, the price of the raw material -- phosphate rock -- has surged by more than 700 per cent to more than $US367 per tonne. As well as putting pressure on food prices, some researchers believe the risk of a future phosphorus shortage blows a hole in the concept of biofuels as a "renewable" source of energy.


Ethanol is not truly renewable if the essential fundamental element is, in reality, growing more scarce, researchers say. Within a few decades, according to forecasts used by scientists at Linkoping University, in Sweden, a "peak phosphorus" crunch could represent a serious threat to agriculture as global reserves of high-quality phosphate rock go into terminal decline.


Because supplies of phosphates suitable for mining are so limited, a new geopolitical map may be drawn around the remaining reserves, which would give a sudden boost to the global importance of Morocco, which holds 32 per cent of the world's proven reserves.


The Times

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You are so right. I read that the D8 Summit has called for a halt in the production biofuels.


“The world should halt the development of biofuel crops on arable land and instead boost agricultural production to solve the global food crisis and prevent ‘disaster’, the Malaysian and Indonesian leaders warned on Tuesday at the opening of a developing countries summit [The Financial Times (UK)/Factiva]."


"The D8 comprises eight developing Muslim countries including Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey" [Xinhua]


"Abdullah Badawi, the Malaysian Prime Minister, said the use of arable land for biofuels ‘should be stopped because such action will deepen the global food scarcity and further drive up food prices’. ‘We must not allow the zeal for energy security to come into direct conflict with the basic need for food production,’ he told the Developing Eight (D8) summit in Kuala Lumpur. …


Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesian president, blamed ‘some developed countries’ for exacerbating the food crisis by allowing biofuel development on arable land. …” [The Financial Times (UK)/Factiva]


AFP reports that “Leaders from the D8 group of developing nations Tuesday adopted an ambitious 10-year blueprint to substantially increase trade between their countries, an official said. …The trade agreement, to run from 2008 to 2018, details economic and business activities that member nations will pursue over the next decade.


‘It is a guideline for a vision and framework for enhancing cooperation. It covers sectors from investment, agriculture, energy, tourism, transportation, banking and finance,’ the pact said, according to the Malaysian official. Malaysia's Central Bank Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz said the D8 nations were now on track to achieve their goal of boosting their intra-grouping trade by 10 to 15 percent by 2018. …” [Agence France Presse/Factiva]


Xinhua adds that “…According to recent statistics, D8 total trade in 2007 was $1.15 trillion and the intra-trade was $60.5 billion. … ‘Therefore, it is quite expected that through the implementation of the Roadmap for the next decade, the share of intra-trade in our total trade would be increased, as well as trade being diversified to a desirable level among member countries,’ [secretary General of D8 Dipo Alam] said. …” [Xinhua/Factiva]


In a separate piece, AFP notes that “Soaring prices of food and fuel could spark widespread political unrest, Badawi Tuesday said at a summit of developing nations. …He urged the D8 nations to modernize their agriculture sectors, in an effort to avert conflict by reversing the drop in food production caused by climate change and natural disasters.


He also urged major oil producers to adopt Saudi Arabia's move to increase oil production, to try to moderate the inexorable rise of the cost of crude which has roughly doubled over the past year. …” [Agence France Presse/Factiva]

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Guest Country Boy

I was reading that persul focyanic acid = H2(CN)aS3 can be used in place of phosphorus on matches. It resists shock and friction, it is readily friable, and will mix with other substances; moreover, it is non-poisonous and cheaper than phosphorus.

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Guest Luke in WV

Hello from West Virginia. This is a great topic. I would like to share some information I have collected to make my farm green. Most all soils have way more phophorus than we could use in a lifetime. The only problem is that these same soils are usually so lacking in organic matter that that phosphorus is unavailable.


Justus von Liebig, a German scientist, made an historical address before the British Association of Science in which he for the first time gave a clear, intelligent exposition of the role of minerals in plant growth and laid the ground work for modern agricultural science. He was the first to show that insoluble phosphates such as bone could be made to release their phosphorus in a form more quickly accessible to growing plants if they were caused to react with sulfuric acid. That suggestion stimulated John Bennett Lawes, an Englishman, to treat coprolites, a phosphorus bearing ore fairly abundant in Great Britain, with sulfuric acid and to test the resultant phosphate as a plant nutrient. In 1842 Lawes was given a patent on this idea, which permitted him to establish the first 'superphosphate' works. From then on is fertilizer history.


Conventional agriculture practices, such as tillage, heavy fertilizers and fungicides, poor crop rotations and selection for plants which survive these conditions, hinder the ability of plants to form symbiosis with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.


Arbuscular Mycorrhiza


Arbuscular mycorrhiza is a type of symbiotic association in which the fungus penetrates the cortical cells of the roots of a vascular plant. This mutualistic association provides the fungus with relatively constant and direct access to mono- or dimeric carbohydrates, such as glucose and sucrose produced by the plant in photosynthesis.The carbohydrates are translocated from their source location (usually leaves) to the root tissues and then to the fungal partners. In return, the plant gains the use of the mycelium's very large surface area to absorb water and mineral nutrients from the soil, thus improving the mineral absorption capabilities of the plant roots.


Plants grown in sterile soils and growth media often perform poorly without the addition of spores or hyphae of mycorrhizal fungi to colonise the plant roots and aid in the uptake of soil mineral nutrients. The absence of mycorrhizal fungi can also slow plant growth in early succession or on degraded landscapes.


Phosphorus recycling


Each of us releases around 1.5 grammes of phosphorus per day into sewage, and sewage also contains phosphorus from food wastes, organic materials, detergents and industrial sources. German Federal Environment office announced in March 2003 the objective of developing phosphorus recovery for recycling from sewage and other wastes. Sweden has also announced the objective of developing phosphorus recycling. Phosphorus can also be recycled from sewage by using it, either directly, or as sewage sludges, as a fertiliser and support for the growth of plants or biomass, which can then be used as animal feed, to produce compost, as an energy source, or as a raw material for industrial processes. Such systems can use sewage, and so recycle phosphorus and other nutrients, to produce algal or water plant biomass, wood or other energy crops, etc.


Phosphorus recovery


Phosphate that enters water from sources such as phosphorous-containing waste is one of the greatest pollution problems facing freshwater systems today. Increased phosphate levels cause aquatic weeds and algae to grow unchecked. As these organisms die and decompose, oxygen concentrations in the water drop, sometimes so severely that “dead zones” develop that are devoid of aquatic life. A good example of this is the Chesapeake Bay. According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation the “dead zone,” stretches for hundreds of square miles during the summer, has too little oxygen to support a healthy ecosystem.


To address this problem, phosphorous can be precipitated from waste as struvite, a naturally occurring hydrous phosphate of magnesium and ammonia. Extracting phosphates from the sewage works in a form which can be used either industrially (as a raw material in the phosphate industry) or as a fertiliser (either directly as recovered, or after further processing or mixing by the fertiliser industry). P-recovery is feasible, for example, by precipitation of calcium phosphates, struvite (MAP, magnesium ammonium phosphate) or potassium struvite (potassium ammonium phosphate, K-struvite).


During treatment, sewage normally passes through a dewatering unit, such as a gravity belt thickener (GBT) and a GBT filtrate well, or a centrifuge and a centrifuge liquor well. In the first step, sewage from the GBT or centrifuge is contacted with a polymeric membrane reactor to remove the phosphorous as primary struvite. Magnesium is added to promote struvite formation and the secondary removal process. In the second step, sewage from the GBT filtrate well or liquor well is contacted with a mononuclear membrane, removing the phosphorous as secondary struvite.


The USDA should consider funding research in recovery of the precipitated struvite and plot trials using the struvite as an inorganic slow release fertilizer in place of phosphate rock. Struvite is an ammonium magnesium phosphate mineral. It is also a problem in sewage and waste water treatment, particularly after anaerobic digesters release ammonium and phosphate from waste material, as it forms a scale on lines and clogs system pipes. Recovery of phosphorus from wastestreams as struvite and recycling those nutrients into agriculture as fertilizer appears promising, particularly in agricultural manure and municipal wastewater treatment plants. Use as an agricultural fertilizer was in fact first described in 1857.


What is Being Done


In June of 2000, the State of Maryland signed Chesapeake 2000, a new Agreement for restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. This agreement is commonly referred to as "C2K." Together with the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the signatories pledged to achieve over 100 specific actions designed to restore the health of the Bay and its living resources.


Executive Council Stormwater Directive for State and Federal Agencies: The Urban Stormwater Workgroup that reports to Nutrient Subcommittee completed the Executive Council Stormwater Directive, and the Chesapeake Bay Council representatives signed it in December 2001. The Maryland Department of the Environment, Water Management Administration (MDE/WMA) currently regulates all State and federal construction projects that disturb more than 5000 square feet; therefore, Maryland meets and/or exceeds the main goal and objectives of this Executive Council Stormwater Directive. MDE/WMA will work with Maryland’s State and federal agencies to provide demonstration projects in accordance to the Directive that will be posted on Chesapeake Bay Programs web page to further education and outreach on innovative stormwater management practices.


More information can be found at




ARS Project: Swine Wastewater Treatment Via Struvite Formation, Solids Separation, and Treatment Wetland


Project Number: 6657-13630-003-06

Project Type: Specific C/A


Start Date: Aug 23, 2006

End Date: Sep 30, 2008



Treat swine wastewater and derive energy products in a treatment wetting/mechanical treatment system.



Solids from a swine barn flush wastewater will be treated to promote struvite formation and flocculation followed by solids separation. The remaining liquid will be low in phosphorus and moderate in ammonia concentrations; it will be treated in constructed wetlands microcosms to remove nitrogen alkalinity and pathogens. A final high pH treatment with calcium hydroxide will kill remaining pathogens and precipitate phosphorus. The phosphorus precipitate will be pumped to the beginning solids separation unit where it will be removed with the solids.


More information can be found at:




My farm land does not perk well, so we have a sewage lagoon. It is a earthen pond that receives raw sewage from the plumbing drains of my home. The process that takes place in a lagoon is a natural one, with microscopic plants and animals coexisting and dependent on each other. This relationship causes the water in the lagoon to turn green with algae at certain times of the year. Sunlight is essential to promote this algae growth. Algae produce oxygen through the photosynthetic process. In this stabilization process, bacteria release carbon dioxide that is used by the algae in their growth process. Another oxygen source is breezes blowing across the lagoon surface. When wastes are broken down, some of the material is given off as gases in the air and small amounts of solids settle to the bottom of the lagoon. In a properly constructed and managed lagoon, solids will not likely build up to where the lagoon will need to be cleaned out. I have found that Cattails and other vegetation in a sewage lagoon will help clean the water faster as they assorb the access nuitrients in the water.


The interesting thing is that you can walk right next to my pond and not smell anything. There is a large bullfrog population living in my lagoon, so I consider it to be working perfectly. Anaerobic digestion has the advantages of producing energy, producing high quality fertilizer and also preventing the transmission of disease.


I am reluctant to use the processed lagoon effluent as fertilizer at this moment. But, I know that it is being done throughout Asia. I have also read articles how they are creating biogas from the waste.

If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

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Farmers and gardeners have been recycling biosolids for ages. Biosolids recycling is the process of beneficially using treated residuals from wastewater treatment to promote the growth of agricultural crops, fertilize gardens and parks and reclaim mining sites. Land application of biosolids takes place in all 50 states.


Agricultural uses of biosolids that meet strict quality criteria and application rates have been shown to produce significant improvements in crop growth and yield. Nutrients found in biosolids, such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and trace elements such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, sulfur and zinc, are necessary for crop production and growth.


Biosolids originate from multiple sources at the wastewater treatment plants. First organic materials settle to the bottom of tanks; this material is removed. The wastewater is piped to aerated tanks where micro organisms consume the remaining organic matter and nutrients; these micro organisms settle out in other tanks and are removed. Aluminum or iron may be added to

combine with soluble phosphorous, and cause it to precipitate and settle out so it can be removed.


The various settled materials undergo treatment by aerobic digestion or lime stabilization to destroy any pathogenic organisms, and are dewatered to produce biosolids — a semi-solid material ready for recycling.


Biosolids often supplement or may even substitute for conventional chemical fertilizers. EPA studies show that biosolids reduce the use of chemical fertilizers needed to produce comparable crop yields. Plants fertilized with biosolids show greater vigor as measured by root area. While most biosolids are

applied to farmlands, they can also be applied to tree farms or used to reclaim and revegetate

disturbed areas mined for sand or gravel.


Biosolids are used to fertilize many crops, including field corn, soybeans, hay, pasture, commercial

sod, cereal crops, ornamental crops, and trees. Applicators carefully develop a nutrient management

plan for each site and submit their plans for approval by the Maryland Department of the Environment, Virginia Health Department, or Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.


Approved plans have determined the application rate of biosolids for each specific land site based on

the nitrogen requirements of the crop, and the lime needed for optimum soil pH. Biosolids are land

applied at predetermined rates, using subsurface injection or surface spreading, and usually followed

by tilling to incorporate into the soil. Nitrogen is released slowly throughout the growing season,

therefore not released into ground or surface waters—again protecting the Chesapeake Bay

watershed. There are mandatory waiting periods between biosolids applications and crop harvesting

or pasturing.


In 2007, WSSC cleaned more than 60 billion gallons of wastewater and removed 20 million pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus. Over the past 15 years, WSSC has reduced nitrogen discharges by 51 percent while wastewater flows increased 22 percent.


For information on these subjects or WSSC, we invite you to call on 301-206-7010, or look us up on the World Wide Web at



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Guest Exotic Naturals

Fosfofix-Phosphate Solubilizing Bacteria (Bacillus & Pseudomonas)


Phosphorus solubilizing bacteria and fungi play an important role in converting insoluble phosphatic compound such as rock phospohate, bone meal and basic slag particularly the chemically fixed soil phosphorus into available form.




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Mumbai - 400053


Tel: +91 22 26733092, 66939757, 67101835


Fax: +91 22 66941179


Email: natura@vsnl.com / info@exoticnatural.com



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Guest LAW_*

Even with waste treatment this problem will be difficult to solve.




That moonscape [in west-central Florida' is the South Fort Meade Mine, a phosphate operation owned by the most powerful company that most Floridians have never heard of: Minnesota-based Mosaic Co. The $6-billion fertilizer company is one of only three phosphate firms left in Florida from the 100 that operated during the industry’s heyday in the early 20th century. Formed in 2004 by a merger of Cargill Crop Nutrition and IMC Global (Cargill remains 65% owner), it controls more than 300,000 acres of the state.


Mosaic is the biggest phosphate supplier in the world, and the soaring demand for fertilizer has sent its sales and profits skyrocketing. Mosaic’s share price jumped 345% last year, making it the fastest-rising U.S. large-cap stock.


Florida’s sandy soils are key to that success. The company gets 100% of its phosphate from the state - nearly 10 million tons a year. That amounts to more than half the phosphate sold in the U.S. and 16% of the global market, more than double any competitor’s share.


But the industry is entering its endgame in Florida. After more than a century of mining, Florida’s phosphate deposits are running out.


... For the industry, the question is whether the end of mining comes sooner or later. “Florida is out of business in terms of phosphate by 2040,” says G. Michael Lloyd Jr., research director of the Florida Institute of Phosphate Research


... Phosphate deposits are concentrated in the United States, China, Morocco and Russia. Historically, Florida has been the industry’s mother lode.


... Over time, increasingly efficient production began to deplete central Florida’s reserves. In 1900, it took miners a year to excavate a 15-acre site with picks and shovels. A century later, enormous draglines, working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, can dig up 15 acres a month.


... For now, the company is making so much money in phosphate that any talk of development is on hold. World phosphate stocks are low, while the rate of growth in demand has doubled every year for the past three years, according to the International Fertilizer Association. Dammonium phosphate (the most common fertilizer manufactured in Florida) has sold for as much as $1,000 a metric ton, up from $255 at the start of 2007.


Still, observers say a downturn is unavoidable. The industry’s fortunes have soared and plummeted like a roller coaster for a century. The last major shakeout, which began in 1999 and lasted through 2006, led to the creation of Mosaic and saw seven large-scale phosphate plants close in the United States, six of them in Florida. Mosaic itself shuttered two Florida plants, Green Bay and South Pierce, in 2006 as China transitioned from the largest importer to the second-largest exporter of processed phosphate. Chinese competition remains, and Morocco and other players are ramping up production. A large Saudi Arabian plant is coming online, as are other operations around the globe.


Read the Full Article




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