Phosphorus is essential for life


What is Phosphorus?

Phosphorus is an essential element for all living organisms, as it plays a key role in most life processes.

Phosphorus is a Key to Life

In human beings, phosphorus is important for health, as it:  

— makes up the structure of bones and teeth

— is fundamental to the transfer of energy within cells and thus to all body functions

— is a vital element in the structure of DNA — without it, DNA cannot form

— is an essential element in many proteins

Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the human body (after calcium)
Of the total phosphorus in the body, about 85% is in the skeleton, 1% is in the blood and body fluids and the remaining 14% is associated with soft tissue such as muscle
In plants, phosphorus plays a vital role in growth and health, increasing yield and fertility. Plants store phosphorus and supply it to human beings and animals. Phosphorus: 

— is present in all organs of green plants — stem, roots, leaves, but most of it is accumulated in fruit and seeds

— is essential for photosynthesis and all energy recovering processes

— promotes plant and root growth

— promotes early plant maturity (so grain ripens quicker)

— is involved in nitrogen fixation

— is essential for seed production and flowering

— promotes stalk strength

— promotes resistance to winter kill and dry weather

Global P nutrient demand in 2015 is estimated at approximately 45 Mt of P₂O₅, with an average annual growth rate of 2.5%Source: M. Prud’homme, “Fertilizers and Raw Materials Supply and Global Supply/Demand Balances: 2011 — 2015
The proportion of P fertilisers based on phosphoric acid rose from 75% in 2000 to 82% in 2010, and is expected to grow up to 84% by 2015Source: M. Prud’homme, “Fertilizers and Raw Materials Supply and Global Supply/Demand Balances: 2011 — 2015”, IFA, June 2011: 38
In animals, phosphorus is essential for the formation and maintenance of bones, metabolic reactions and thus digestion, all of which are important for the quality of animal products. Phosphorus: 

— is a component in forming teeth and bones, which contain about 80% of the phosphorus in the animal’s body

— is associated with skeletal formation

— is involved in protein synthesis and metabolism

— plays a role in the utilisation and transfer of energy

— is present in nucleic acids, which are carriers of genetic information and regulate protein biosynthesis and immunity

— enhances reproductive performance

— is essential for lactation and appetite

Average total P content in adult animals is: laying hen — 13 g of P in 2 kg; sheep — 280 g of P in 50 kg; pig — 460 g of P in 100 kg; cow — 3.6-5 kg of P in 600 kg

Feeding laying hens with 3.5 g of P per 1 kg of feed results in an average of 65.7 eggs per bird; while feeding them with 4.5 g of P per 1 kg of feed results in an average of 68.3 eggs per bird
Phosphorus is not only used in the production of phosphate fertilisers for plants and feed phosphate for animal nutrition, it is also an essential element in products present in daily life and is commonly found in our homes, such as:

— food additives (for baked goods, beverages, processed meat and cheese, canned products, etc.);

— pharmaceuticals and personal care products (toothpaste, cosmetics, tablets, etc.);

— industrial and manufacturing chemicals (detergents and cleaners, fire extinguishers, water treatment, batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles, ceramics, cement, paint, etc.).

About 82% of the world phosphoric acid output is used for fertiliser production; the remaining 18% is used in non-fertiliser applications, such as animal feed supplements, pharmaceutical and food products, metal treatment products, and in medicine and dentistry. The non-fertiliser demand for phosphoric acid is forecast to reach 6 Mt of P₂O₅ in 2015Source: M. Prud’homme, “Fertilizers and Raw Materials Supply and Global Supply/Demand Balances: 2011 — 2015”, IFA, June 2011: 38

PhosAgro specialises in the production of the following key phosphorus-containing products:

— phosphate-based fertilisers: diammonium phosphate (DAP), monoammonium phosphate (MAP), NPK

— feed phosphate: monocalcium phosphate (MCP)

PhosAgro also entered the industrial phosphates market, following its acquisition of a 24% stake in CJSC Metachem in June 2011.

DAP has accounted for 32-40% of the world’s total phosphate fertiliser consumption since 2005, and this is projected to rise to 40-41% by 2015 as production capacity grows
Global DAP demand is forecast to increase at an annual rate of 5% over 2010 to reach 39 Mt in 2015, which meansSource: M. Prud’homme, “Fertilizers and Raw Materials Supply and Global Supply/Demand Balances: 2011 — 2015”, IFA, June 2011: 45

Phosphorus is a Unique Non-Renewable Element

Phosphorus is just as important to agriculture as water. The accessibility and sufficiency of phosphorus is essential to feed the global population.

Repeatedly growing the same crops drains the soil and does not put anything back. Unlike nitrogen, phosphorus needs to be replenished by either the breakdown of organic matter, such as crop stubble or animal manures, or from phosphorus fertilisers. Correctly managing phosphorus is an important step in bringing soil back to life and in achieving optimum crop production.

Corn is considered a high phosphorus use crop. As a result of phosphorus deficiency, the growth of corn is often stunted, and the lower leaves turn purple during late April and the first couple of weeks of May. The primary role of phosphorus in a plant is to store and transfer energy produced by photosynthesis for use in growth and reproductive processes. Adequate phosphorus levels encourage vigorous root and shoot growth and promote early maturity. Shortly before pollination, corn plants absorb over 3.4 kg of P₂O₅ per hectare per day. Some fast growing crops can take as much as 1 kg of phosphorus from the soil per hectare per day. Phosphorus in the soil is thus rapidly depleted and must be replenished by labile phosphorus within a short time frame, i.e. from a few hours to a few days. There is a critical lower limit on easily-soluble soil phosphorus, below which crop yield is adversely affected. It is therefore essential to build up and maintain a good level of labile phosphorus in the soil solution as a prerequisite for high production levels and sustainable agriculture. A 180-bushel corn crop requires 45.5 kg of P₂O₅. Approximately 30% of the total phosphorus is absorbed by the plants in the first 50 days. Unlike potassium, phosphorus is required in large quantities through maturity.

Some of this information is provided by: Pincock, Allen & Holt ( January 2012); The Fertilizer Encyclopedia, 2009 By Vasant Gowariker, V. N. Krishnamurthy, Sudha Gowariker, Manik Dhanorkar, Kalyani Paranjape, Norman Borlaug

1. Effect of phosphate and nitrogen fertilisers on corn yield 2. Effect of phosphate and nitrogen fertilisers on net
farmer revenue *
Source: International Plant Nutrition Institute

Source: International Plant Nutrition Institute
* as corn prices of US$ 6.6/bu (2011 average)