Critical evaluation of the sustainability of the supply of phosphorus to UK agriculture Name: Instructor: Task: Date: Phosphorus is the second important element in plant nutrition, after nitrogen, as a mineral nutrient (Sivakumar & Ndiang’ui, 2007, pp. 239)…
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Inorganic phosphorus is available in the soil in form of insoluble mineral complexes (Schmidt & Schaechter, 2012, pp. 514). The insoluble form cannot be absorbed by plants. The organic matter accounts for 20-80% of phosphorus in the soil. Only 0.1% of the soluble phosphorus is available for uptake by plants. The current situation that involves loses at every step of phosphorus life cycle contributes to concerns about future supplies and water and soil pollution, both in the UK and worldwide. Efficiency in its production, use, recycling and minimization of waste could lead to major strides being made towards a sustainable phosphorus use. This would set the world on the path towards resource efficiency and ensure that phosphorus reserves are available for future generations. Globally, phosphorus resources are abundant and reserves are significant. However, there are a number of factors implying that the security of phosphorus should be monitored in the UK. UK has few phosphate bearing rocks reserves. In 2008, there was price volatility in which the cost of phosphorus rock rose by 700%, contributing to an increase in the price of fertilizers. Improving the use of recycled phosphorus in the UK and the world, as a whole, would help in safeguarding the supply and distribution of phosphorus both at regional and global level. Economically, diversifying phosphorus supply to the UK businesses, which rely on it, would improve their resilience faced by any future price instability and other trends that might aggravate their important dependency. Farming practices that help in feeding billions of people in the UK involve the use of phosphate fertilizers, manufactured from the phosphate rock. The rock is a non-renewable resource, and it is being used widely since the end of the 19th century. The dependence on the phosphate rock for food production calls for sustainable management practices to ensure that it is economically available to UK farmers. The use of phosphorus in the UK agriculture is associated with several types of potential environmental impacts. Little amounts of phosphorus restrict plants growth, resulting in soil erosion. The use of too much phosphorus leads to losses of the nutrient to surface water, leading to eutrophication. More sustainable practices, for instance better management of field applications and enhanced phosphorus recycling, can contribute to improvements in productivity and reduced environmental impacts. UK scientists are starting to qualify in phosphorus production through food production and consumption systems. By estimation, only one-fifth of the mined phosphorus in UK is consumed as food by humans. The remaining portion is used in agriculture, retained in soil, released in the aquatic environment or lost in food waste. High crop yields in UK, fundamentally, depend on mined phosphate rock. In a small population, famers could adequately obtain agricultural yields by fertilizing the soil with phosphorus derived from human and other animals’ excreta. Population growth in the UK in the 18th and 19th centauries stimulated the production of food, resulting in rapid depletion of soil nutrients. Farmers, therefore, started using large amounts of off-farm sources of phosphorus, including guano, phosphate rock and bone meal. Phosphate rock, which was cheap and plentiful, became the widely preferred source. Consequently, UK farmers adopted new farming methods like planting high
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