Global phosphorus security

There’s a conference going on in Sydney at the moment addressing issues of phosphorus scarcity and food security. You can read about it here.

Phosphorus supplies are limited and we’re not using it sustainably, in other words we’re not recycling what we use.

Australian soils are low in phosphorus, but this doesn’t bother the native plants, because they’ve evolved all sorts of ways to maximise and recycle what little there is. The plants we grow for food aren’t so adapted—they need good supplies of phosphorus—so in order to grow most crops we need to add superphosphate to agricultural soils.

How can you prepare for ‘peak phosphorus’—the production peak and decline in global phosphorus supplies?

You need to increase phosphorus levels in your food-growing soils to the point where the plants get what they need for healthy growth. Then you need to recycle every bit of food waste and your own body wastes back into that soil. As well as a compost heap, this means, ultimately, a composting toilet. You need to make sure no phosphorus leaves your land.

In the meantime, quietly stash away a few bags of superphosphate in the shed. The price is bound to go up, long before it becomes unavailable (there was an 800 per cent price spike of phosphate commodities in 2008).

In the later stages of collapse it will be valuable to barter with those who didn’t bother to prepare.


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