ADAS Head of Crop Performance Roger Sylvester-Bradley has appeared in National Geographic to advise on the challenges of a depleting supply of phosphorus, which could test farmers in years to come.
Interviewed two years ago, Roger explained that the problems with adding large quantities of phosphorus to land are, “first, phosphorus runoff from farms contributes to widespread water pollution. Second, we do not have phosphorus to waste.”
Despite being a centuries-old technique used globally by farmers to boost crops, it no longer seems right to use phosphorus in such quantities or as often. Previous research has suggested that large amounts are required to see a benefit, as much of it is absorbed into the ground and not utilised by the plants. However, now that much of our land is so enriched from years of phosphorous feeding, new approaches would seem necessary. Experiments by ADAS support this. Ten years ago, the team stopped adding phosphorous fertiliser to half of their experimental fields and, a decade on, the crops are only just starting to be affected.
Yes, supplies of phosphorous are becoming scarcer, but, because of ADAS’s continuing research, we know we must prepare for a new future for farming. Now, two years on and with further leading research, Roger would advise: “the take-home for farmers, as far as I am concerned, is that they have limited time to work out better ways of feeding their crops.”
You can read the article in full on the National Geographic website.