Global food production strongly depends on availability of nutrients. Of these, phosphorus (P) is an important nutrient due to its low recovery rate and finite availability. While the time scale of P depletion is debatable, a critical question beyond the physical availability of P is whether P resource depletion can be managed by sustainable consumption of P.
We quantified P demand for cropland as well as grassland in 2050 at global scale. In Europe, Asia, Latin America and Oceania, crop production can benefit from the residual P accumulated in soil from the past P applications, which leads to a reduced fertilizer requirement. In contrast, in Africa more than a five-fold increase in P application is needed to achieve the target P uptake in 2050.Much of the P in animal manure spread in cropland originates from grassland. The transfer of (manure) P from grassland to cropland is not compensated with the transfer of P in livestock feed from cropland to grassland – resulting in soil P depletion of grassland.