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Now a detailed projection of phosphorus production by two Australian researchers indicates that world phosphate rock production will most likely peak in 2027.
Phosphorus and its compounds are used in fertilisers, animal feed, detergents, and metal treatment operations. More than 80 percent of the phosphorus produced is utilised in fertilisers to assist in crop production, resulting in increased yields of up to 50 percent. Without the use of fertilisers it would be difficult to provide sufficient food for an expanding world population, which is projected to grow from around 0.9 billion in 1850 to 9 billion in 2050.
Pedro Sanchez, director of the Agriculture and Food Security Center at the Earth Institute, does not believe there is a shortage of phosphorus. “In my long 50-year career, “ he said. “Once every decade, people say we are going to run out of phosphorus. Each time this is disproven. All the most reliable estimates show that we have enough phosphate rock resources to last between 300 and 400 more years.”
In 2010, the International Fertilizer Development Center determined that phosphate rock reserves would last for several centuries. In 2011, the U.S. Geological Survey revised its estimates of phosphate rock reserves from the previous 17.63 billion tons to 71.65 billion tons in accordance with IFDC’s estimates. And, according to Sanchez, new research shows that the amount of phosphorus coming to the surface by tectonic uplift is in the same range as the amounts of phosphate rock we are extracting now.