Stepping Up Phosphorus Sustainability

Ernie NeffEnvironment, Nutrition

Two University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) researchers have joined a national research effort to promote phosphorus sustainability across the United States. The researchers will work under the funding auspices of the National Science Foundation’s Science and Technology Center in the newly established Science and Technologies for Phosphorus Sustainability (STEPS). In addition to the University of Florida, eight other universities will be involved in the STEPS effort.

The UF/IFAS researchers are Jehangir Bhadha, an assistant professor of soil and water sciences at the Everglades Research and Education Center, and Sandra Guzmán, an agricultural engineer and assistant professor at the Indian River Research and Education Center.

The research will tackle one of the world’s growing and somewhat hidden problems, that of a sustainable phosphorus supply for the food system and being mindful of its impacts on soil, water and the environment.

STEPS has several goals. One of the more ambitious objectives aims to facilitate a 25% reduction in human dependence on mined phosphates and a 25% reduction in phosphorus losses to soil and water resources within 25 years.  

Led by North Carolina State University, STEPS will be headquartered on N.C. State’s Centennial Campus and is funded by an initial, five-year, $25 million grant that is renewable for an additional five years. Through this project, scientists will work to reduce dependence on mined phosphates and the amount of phosphorus that leaches into soil and water.

Phosphorus has become an issue of concern for Florida citrus growers. According to Highlands County Citrus Growers Association Executive Director Ray Royce, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is apparently deeming many citrus growers to be out of compliance because of their phosphorus fertilization rates. Learn more about that issue.

Source: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

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