Intensive farming in the tropics could require huge phosphorus 'tax'
From the Amazon to Africa, tropical regions are widely expected to play a growing role in supplying food to the world. With global population on the rise, many policy experts and conservationists see agricultural intensification as a winning strategy to produce more food per acre while sparing tropical forests from being converted to farmland. Just pour on the fertilizer.
But a new study in Nature Plants raises a grave concern: if tropical countries try to meet rising global demand for food by turning to intensive farming techniques, it will require vast amounts of phosphorus fertilizer--which must be mined from phosphate rock, a limited natural resource.
"In some parts of the tropics, for every ton of phosphorus harvested in food, you have to donate one ton to the soil," said Eric Roy, a scientist at the University of Vermont who led the new study. "We call that the phosphorus tax."
This tax happens not only because phosphorus is naturally low in many tropical soils, but also because these soils tend to bind phosphorus fertilizer, making less of it available to crops than soils in many temperate regions of the world, like North America and Europe. Doubled by 2050
The first-of-its-kind study estimates that to intensify crop production on farms atop phosphorus-binding soils worldwide would require paying a phosphorus tax equal to as
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The next local sale of feeder calves will be on May 5th, and prices are expected to drop a little more by then. “We hit the peak in 2015 for feeder calves. We knew the prices were where they should be, almost too good to be true, but they didn’t stay up long enough to recoup the money beef farmers have lost in the last ten years. We will be disappointed if prices go down too much,” said Wendell Connor, a beef farmer in North Hatley.
There are fewer beef cattle farmers in the country than there were before the situation caused by the mad cow crisis began playing havoc with the Canadian beef sector. “Many farmers just got tired of working for nothing; a lot of them have dropped out. It was more interesting in 2015, but those prices just didn’t last long enough,” added Mr. Conner.
The weather has been favorable, so far, for the farmers. “The ground is still cold but it’s dry and this gives us a chance to get the ground ready for seeding. It’s been easy to work in the fields.”
A beautiful beef cow from the Ruf farm, in Stanstead.
Rising global food demand may require vast amounts of phosphorous fertilizer, a limited resource.