Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “phosphorus”

Save the P – Roger Ingalls

Have you seen the price of food lately?

Many of us now know that food prices are tied to natural gas and oil. Oil is used to make pesticides and nitrogen fertilizer is made from natural gas. Since World War II, most of our food has been grown with manmade chemicals. As fossil fuel prices rise, so does the price of food. Even meat rises because the animals are fed grains grown with synthetic chemicals.

What’s not often discussed is another type of fertilized or macro-nutrient used in Industrial Agriculture. Phosphorus (P) is essential for plant growth but since the 1930s most of it was depleted from the soil. Under President FDR, government initiatives were put in place to mine ancient phosphorus-rich marine deposits. The P is processed into a usable form and then spread across the fields.

P problem solved, right? Wrong! Just like oil, the well is starting to run dry. The known minable phosphorus deposits will be depleted within the next 35 years. Consequently, the price of phosphorus has recently jumped over 400% adding more cost to food.

Fortunately, P is a reusable resource if recovered. Industrial Agriculture uses a spread to waste process so valuable resources are not reclaimed. Instead, pesticides and fertilizers, including phosphorus, get washed into water ways damaging ecosystems and creating dead zones. This seventy year old method of growing food is productive but extreme wasteful and is becoming economically obsolete. Unfortunately, it is being propped up by big money chemical companies and politicians for hire.

There is a bright side if we look far enough into the future. Eventually, industrial spread to waste agriculture will cost more than sustainable organic farming and high-tech agriculture, such as aquaponics.

Until then, grow your own or buy organic!


Roger Ingalls is well traveled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

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