The lack of phosphorus is making chemists and agriculturalists worried day by day. Phosphorus is highly important and much required in the synthesis and development of life.
In the molecular level, the element has a great role to play, and life cannot flourish without Phosphorus. For the same reason, phosphorus fertilizers are highly needed for quality growth of plants, crops, and trees. But the scarcity of the element in easy to absorb forms is making buyers and suppliers worried.
The natural occurrence of elemental phosphorus
Elemental phosphorus is available naturally in the air. The atmosphere contains phosphates, which are compounds of oxygen and phosphorus. To extract phosphorus from them they are broken, and oxygen is released. What stays back is white reactive phosphorus, which again may easily combine with iron and calcium, to form insoluble salts.
Where to get phosphorus supply naturally
Earlier when people started learning the importance of phosphorus in agriculture, they used dug up human and animal bones and remains from battlefields etc, which contained phosphorus. Bird droppings were also used for containing high concentrations of the element. Eventually, these supplies ended with the rising demand
Phosphorus is mined nowadays. 70% of the world’s supply comes from mines at Morocco in Africa. The rest comes from the US, China, Jordan, and from South Africa. But the mines are going to get exhausted in some 35 years which can be predicted from the use globally. Demands are getting higher than supplies resulting in low scarcity, which soon may change into serious scarcity.
Wastage of the supplies
The elemental phosphorus as fertilizer is often wasted in huge portions for natural reasons. As the element binds easily to iron and calcium, hence much of the loose element is wasted here. Much gets leached by soil and water. And then the rest gets absorbed by plants and crops.
Therefore the already scarce and limited supply gets wasted every time to actually get into use in little amount, which is a concern. Much of the leached of phosphorus, in various forms, goes into the rivers and oceans. There again marine and river creatures eat up the compounds, and when they die, the phosphorus lies within the carcass in the sea or river beds.
The last resort used these days is to mine the element from sewage. And this is what can save the plants and crops from the scarcity of phosphorus to a level.