Phosphorus-enriched soil is very much essential for agricultural purposes. But the current alarming fact is, this nutrient is increasingly being lost from soils all around the world. An international research team led by the University of Basel reported that the primary cause is soil erosion. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, shows the most affected continents and regions.
This mineral is one of the vital factors for the world’s food production. We won’t get an unlimited supply of this from the soil. Because of soil erosion, we cannot predict that when the source of this reserve is going to go exhausted.
Professor Christine Alewell along with an International research team came forward to study about this crisis. They started an investigation of the continents and regions worldwide that are suffering a significant loss of phosphorus.
The combination of high-resolution, spatially discrete global data on the phosphorus content of soils always tracked by the researchers along with the local erosion rates. Using this data, they can calculate how much phosphorus is exhausting in various countries.
Soil Erosion and exhaustion of phosphorus in the soil
The study concluded that over 50% of phosphorus loss in agriculture is because of soil erosion. “That erosion plays we already knew a role. We have quantified the extent of that role with this level of spatial resolution,” study author Alewell explains.
Phosphorus in the soil flushed out of agricultural soils into wetlands and local bodies because of the erosion. The excess of nutrients harms the aquatic plant and animals.
Some countries also tried to replace the lost Phosphorus in the fields by using mineral fertilizers. Countries like Switzerland tried organic fertilizers and potentially closed cycles in agriculture. Africa, Eastern Europe, and South America register the greatest phosphorus losses—with limited options for solving the problem.
“It’s paradoxical, especially as Africa possesses the largest geological phosphorus deposits. But the mined phosphorus exported and costs many times more for most farmers in African countries than, for example, European farmers,” says Alewell.
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