Three year project: Australian Sustainable Phosphorus Futures

ISF_Pproject_timelineThis project investigates how Australia can manage phosphorus to ensure long-term food security, soil fertility and environmental protection. The intended outcome is to deliver sustainable adaptation strategies across a range of scenarios to increase the resilience of the Australian food system. An Australian phosphorus stocks and flows model, quantified and costed sustainable phosphorus measures and interactive future phosphorus scenarios, will enable stakeholders to identify policy implications and make informed policy decisions.

Impending global phosphorus scarcity will compromise the resilience of Australian food production and global food security if no changes to the way we currently use and manage phosphorus are made. As an essential nutrient infertilisers for food production, phosphorus has no substitute. Australia and the world are currently dependent on phosphorus from finite phosphate rock reserves, which are becoming more expensive, scarce, difficult to access and geopolitically concentrated in only a few countries. Yet research addressing the serious regional implications of phosphorus scarcity is lacking.

The Australian Sustainable Phosphorus Futures project aims to increase scientific knowledge on a range of issues relating to sustainable phosphorus use in Australia and will run over a period of 3 years, led by Dr Cordell and Prof White as part of a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. This builds on previous recent research:

2007-10: Doctoral research by Dr Cordell on the implications of phosphorus scarcity for food security globally and in Australia;

2008:    National Workshop on the Future of Phosphorus – high-level stakeholder workshop to share perspectives, key challenges and generate a shared vision;

2010:    Preliminary research on Securing a sustainable phosphorus future for Australia (collaborative project with CSIRO) – refining the implications of and responses to phosphorus scarcity for Australia.

The overall objectives of the three-year project are to:

  1. Analyse the phosphorus stocks and flows through the Australian food system (from mine to field to fork and losses to the environment);
  2. Identify sustainable pathways for Australia to secure phosphorus for agriculture and food production in the long-term; and
  3. Inform policy, through collaborative development of probable, possible and preferred future scenarios.

The specific objectives of Phase 1 include:


Proposal (2012): Australian Sustainable Phosphorus Futures project

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Phase 1: Analysis of phosphorus flows through the Australian food production and consumption system, Australian Sustainable Phosphorus Futures, Cordell et al (2012) Institute for Sustainable Futures, prepared for Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation. [available for download soon]