Scientists just found another key threat to global food security

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The full article by Chelsea Harvey was originally written for The Washington Post

With the world’s population expected to exceed 9 billion people by the year 2050, producing enough food for everyone is a top concern for global policymakers. And now, scientists have pointed out another threat to global food security. In a new study in Nature Communications, a group of researchers concluded that the world’s grasslands are going to need a lot more phosphorus — an important nutrient for plants — if they’re going to produce enough grass to meet future food demands.

No, all that grass won’t be used to feed humans. It’s for the livestock, such as cattle, that people eat. Although many farmers increasingly supplement their animals’ diets with corn and grain, grass remains a major food staple for livestock all around the world. So being able to feed all those animals depends, in a big way, on the productivity of the world’s grasslands. The problem is whether those grasslands will be able to keep up with the future demand for meat, which is only expected to increase.

To help answer that question, the authors of the new paper decided to take a closer look at the phosphorus required by the world’s grasslands. Phosphorus is just one of many nutrients that plants need to thrive, but it’s the subject of increasing concern because of its global scarcity.

“We’ve really focused on phosphorus because it’s a finite resource, and there was this notion — and still is this notion — that we need to be very careful with this resource because it’s so important for our food production,” said senior author Martin van Ittersum, a professor in the plant production systems group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Read more via The Washington Post
Scientists just found another key threat to global food security