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Transition towards sustainable use of phosphorus in the EU

  • 1 March, 2012
  • Wageningen University, Soil Chemistry and Chemical Soil Quality
  • prof. dr ir O Oenema

Europe’s food supply is heavily dependent on the import of phosphorus (P) fertiliser made from finite rock reserves. In addition, there is import of P via animal feed and food. Currently, P is used in society with low use efficiency, because it is not recycled adequately. Moreover, there are relatively large losses which contribute to the eutrophication of surface waters. The main aim of this study is to increase the quantitative understanding of the P cycle of the food production-consumption chain in Europe and to explore options for a drastic increase of the P use efficiency in the food chain. The specific objectives are (1) to develop a dynamic model of the food production – consumption chain in Europe and its P cycle, (2) to quantify the P flows and stocks in Europe at regional and national levels, (3) to quantify and evaluate options for more sustainable use of P, and (4) to assess the effects of nutrient management strategies on P use and reuse at regional and national scales. The scientific challenges are: (1) coherent and quantitative analyses of the P cycle of the food chain for the EU-27, (2) incorporation of temporal and spatial dynamics in P flows and stocks in simulation models at European scales, and (3) development of strategies for efficient P use on the basis of quantitative insights on temporal and spatial changes in the system, while taking interactions between P use, reuse, losses and accumulation into account.


Kimo van Dijk

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