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The phosphate cycle

Earlier today/yesterday, I attended a seminar on phosphate use in agriculture and its affects on water resevoirs. Though I hadn't given the issue much thought on a global scale, the data wasn't terribly shocking. Essentially, overuse of phosphate bearing fertilizers, combined with natural water run-off is slowly poisoning many of the world's downstream watersheds. The most infamous example, in North America, is the poisoning of the Gulf of Mexico at the point of the Mississippi delta, resulting in massive plumes of "red tide" phytoplankton.

More importantly, however, areas that are already under high-levels of water-stress, in particular India, Bangaladesh, and China, are experiencing high-levels of phosphate run-off. The result is not only the obvious loss of crucial phosphates from the agricultural cycle, but the effective poisoning of available water supplies, with all the effects that entails.

Unfortunatly, these figures seem to correlate strongly with the misuse of nitrogen sources. Combine the two over time, and the effects are a steady decrease in water resources, combined with lower farm yields.

Possible solutions:

  • Reduction in the use of phosphate-rich fertilizers; phosphate levels in some areas are two orders of magnitude higher than are necessary, or natural.

  • Better recycling of human waste back into the agricultural cycle.

  • Avoidance of over-reliance on natural gas as an energy source; we are already reliant on it as an artificial source of nitrogen.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 13th, 2005 10:31 pm (UTC)
pieces like this make me think you should...

... try to get published!
Dec. 14th, 2005 05:08 am (UTC)
... try to get published!

I'm the best kind of "published" hep-cat; self-published (and copy-lefted). ;-)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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