The world is running out of phosphate for fertilizer, but not for 300 years.

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 Not quite assured
An upbeat assessment of phosphate reserves leaves several questions unanswered.

Reserves of the phosphate rock used to make such fertilizers are finite, and concerns have been raised that they are in danger of exhaustion. It has been argued, for example, that data from the US Geological Survey point to the available supplies peaking in as little as 25 years time (see Nature 461, 716–718; 2009). Because there is no substitute for phosphate in agriculture, this might present an urgent and substantial problem. But initial findings from the World Phosphate Rock Reserves and Resources study conducted this year by the IFDC, an international non-profit organization based in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and formerly known as the International Fertilizer Development Center, suggest that phosphate rock deposits should last for between 300 and 400 years… continues at link.

Nature 467 , 1005–1006 (28 October 2010) doi:10.1038/4671005b
Published online 27 October 2010

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David Tribe is an applied geneticist, teaching graduate/undergrad courses in food science, food safety, biotechnology and microbiology at the University of Melbourne.