• HPS II

The Need for Phosphate

From the backbone of DNA to the fuel for all living cells, phosphorous is an essential element of life on Earth. Phosphorus, the chemical element found in the phosphate rock to be mined by HPS, also has particular importance at each level of the food chain. Starting at the bottom of the food chain with plants, phosphorous is critical for plant growth and crop yields. Moving up to livestock, phosphorous plays an important role in the nutrition of healthy animals. Arriving at the top of the food chain with humans, phosphorous is necessary for a healthy body. The need for phosphorus permeates all levels of life.

Phosphorus is an essential element to the health and growth of plants and crops. Because of plants’ foundational position in the world food web, what is good for plants is good for all. The addition of phosphorus to deficient soils provides an increase in root growth, winter hardiness, and hastened maturity. These effects in turn lead to increased crop yields. A rapidly-increasing world population, expected to reach 8.6 billion by 2030, will require increased crops and food production on less land. And as the demand for food production increases, so will the need for phosphate.

The utility of phosphorus for livestock extends far beyond its ability to provide them with an ample food source. In all animals (including humans), phosphorus is necessary for the healthy growth of bones and teeth. An abundance of phosphorus is also essential for animal lactation necessary to produce dairy products. Different animals also have different needs for phosphorus. For example, phosphorous has been linked to both higher fertility and calving rates in cows. In chickens, phosphorus deficiency can result in lower body weights and reduced eggshell quality. While phosphorus can be obtained through plant sources, use of phosphorus supplements is common to meet the dietary needs of livestock.

The human need for phosphorus is apparent from its role in food production, but it is also important to note that phosphorus meets human nutritional needs. Phosphorus helps with the proper function of the heart, muscles, kidneys and nerves. Furthermore, phosphorus is needed for certain vitamins, like vitamin B, to fulfill their functions. As important as phosphorus is for feeding us, its nutritional value should not be overlooked.

From the foundations of our food web all the way to the top, the need for phosphorus is apparent. Human health, food production, and sustainability are just a handful of the imperatives that require phosphate. As populations increase, the need to meet these goals, and accordingly the need for phosphate rock, will only grow.

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