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The phosphorus footprint of China's food chain: implications for food security, natural resource management, and environmental quality

The phosphorus footprint of China's food chain: implications for food security, natural resource management, and environmental quality

Journal of Environmental Quality 40(4): 1081-1089

ISSN/ISBN: 0047-2425

PMID: 21712576

DOI: 10.2134/jeq2010.0444

Efficient use of phosphorus (P) for producing food, preventing water pollution, and managing a dwindling rock P reserve are major challenges for China. We analyzed P stocks and flows in the Chinese food chain to identify where P use efficiency can be improved, where P leaks to the environment, and the research, technologies, and policies needed to improve P use. We found a high degree of inefficiency; of 6652 Gg P entering the food chain, only 1102 Gg P (18%) exit as food for humans. The greatest inefficiencies were a large build-up of soil P (3670 Gg P yr; 52% of P inputs) and high P losses to the environment from animal production (1582 Gg P yr; 60% of excreted P). Improving P use in China must focus on national-scale nutrient management strategies, better animal nutrition, and adoption of technologies and policies to reduce P discharges from the animal sector and recycle P as manures in agriculture.

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Accession: 056432520

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