Navigation Links
Helping feed the world without polluting its waters

This release is available in French.

A growing global population has lead to increasing demands for food. Farmers around the world rely, at least in part on phosphorus-based fertilizers in order to sustain and improve crop yields. But the overuse of phosphorus can lead to freshwater pollution and the development of a host of problems, such as the spread of blue-green algae in lakes and the growth of coastal 'dead zones'.

A further issue is that phosphorus comes from phosphate rock, a non-renewable resource of which there are limited supplies in such geopolitically charged areas as Western Sahara and China.

Now, for the first time ever, a detailed global map has been produced showing imbalances in the way that phosphorus, an essential plant nutrient, is being used around the world. "Typically, people either worry about what happens when an excess of phosphorus finds its way into the water, or they focus on what happens when we run out of phosphorus," says Graham MacDonald, a PhD student in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences at McGill University, who led the study. "This is the first study that illuminates the issue on a global scale and suggests that these are not separate problems that the issue is one of distributing the phosphorus we've got."

The study used detailed agronomic information about how much phosphorus is applied to soils in fertilizers and manures for more than 100 different food, feed, and fibre crops produced around the world in 2000. The results point to large imbalances in phosphorus use, with both the overuse of phosphorus in some parts of the world and phosphorus deficits in others. There were some surprising findings. While it is typically assumed that phosphorus deficits exist in only the poorer countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and phosphorus surpluses dominate in the wealthy nations of Europe and North America, in fact phosphorus levels vary widely within most nations with surpluses and deficits commonly occurring side-by-side in a single region. Furthermore, countries such as Ukraine, long-known as the Russian empire's 'bread basket', is one area that now suffers from phosphorus deficits, while eastern China and southern Brazil have been identified as phosphorus 'hotspots', where surplus phosphorus from the intensive use of fertilizers pose a danger of being lost from farmlands in runoff where it may pollute freshwater supplies.

"Until you can quantify how phosphorus is actually currently being used," MacDonald says, "it's difficult for policy-makers to go ahead and make informed decisions at a national or global scale."

Now they will have a tool to help them do so.


Contact: Katherine Gombay
McGill University

Related biology news :

1. University of Houston researchers helping Pentagon build mind-controlled prosthetics
2. FSU researchers helping K-12 teachers bring science down to Earth
3. Helping fish get rid of the Ich
4. USDA scientists helping keep in-demand smoked salmon safe to eat
5. DGAC report offers food and nutrition practitioners insights on helping combat obesity epidemic
6. Neutrons helping ORNL researchers unlock secrets to cheaper ethanol
7. Helping the brains messengers get from A to B
8. New psychological intervention program shows promise in helping those with bowel diseases
9. Helping hearts, spinal cords and tendons heal themselves
10. Helping the NRC look below the surface
11. New insights into helping marine species cope with climate change
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/26/2015)... ALTO, Calif. and LAS VEGAS ... Nok Nok Labs , an innovator in modern ... Alliance , today announced the launch of its latest ... first unified platform enabling organizations to use standards-based authentication ... The Nok Nok S3 Authentication Suite is ideal for ...
(Date:10/23/2015)... Research and Markets ( ) has announced the ... 2015-2019" report to their offering. ... recognition biometrics market to grow at a CAGR of ... --> The report, Global Voice Recognition Biometrics ... market analysis with inputs from industry experts. The report ...
(Date:10/22/2015)... Oct. 22, 2015  Aware, Inc. (NASDAQ: AWRE ), a ... for its third quarter ended September 30, 2015.  ... of 2015 was $4.0 million, a decrease of 33% compared to ... the third quarter of 2015 was $2.2 million, or $0.10 per ... share, in the same period a year ago.  ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. ... IIROC on behalf of the Toronto Stock Exchange, confirms ... there are no corporate developments that would cause the ... --> --> About Aeterna Zentaris ... . --> Aeterna Zentaris is a specialty ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), led by ... known as Multirotor Grand Prix, to represent the First–Person View (FPV) racing community. , ... have embraced this type of racing and several new model aviation pilots have joined ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... CITY , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - ... "Company") announced today that the remaining 11,000 post-share ... Share Purchase Warrants (the "Series B Warrants") subject ... were exercised on November 23, 2015, which will ... Shares.  After giving effect to the issuance of ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... 24, 2015 , ... Creation Technologies would like to extend ... 2015 Technology Fast 500 list of the fastest growing companies in North America. ... medical device that speeds up orthodontic tooth movement by as much as 50 ...
Breaking Biology Technology: