The newsLINK Group - Phosphorous and Farming

Editorial Library Category: Mining Topics: Mining, Phosphorous Title: Phosphorus and Farming Author: newsLINK Staff Synopsis: The more people there are in the world, the more food we have to grow. Yes, you’ve heard that before, and it is certainly true that for many people, predictions of mass starvation have simply never materialized. Editorial: Phosphorus and Farming 4064 South Highland Drive, Millcreek, Utah 84124 │ thenewslinkgroup.com │ (v) 801.676.9722 │ (tf) 855.747.4003 │ (f) 801.742.5803 Editorial Library | © The newsLINK Group LLC 1 The more people there are in the world, the more food we have to grow. Yes, you’ve heard that before, and it is certainly true that for many people, predictions of mass starvation have simply never materialized. For example, you’ve probably never skipped a meal for any reason other than because you decided to skip it or forgot to eat it. But the reality is that many people have in fact starved to death in some parts of the world. And even in the U.S., there are people who go hungry on a regular basis, including young children. The whole world might not be starving, but if even a percentage of the world does not have enough food, it’s a serious problem. The goal should be that everyone has enough to eat every day. Traditionally, liquid and solid fertilizers have played an important role in growing that food. Phosphorus is an important fertilizer ingredient. When the fertilizer is solid, farmers use rotary spreaders to scatter phosphate fertilizer granules. Rotary spreaders can be attached to the back of a tractor, and the farmer can then just drive the tractor around to spread the fertilizer. Other times, farmers use the fertilizer in a liquid form. Putting it on plants is as simple as spraying the plants. Farmers have known since the end of the 1700s that plants depend on phosphorus, and that you could get phosphorus from bones. The first person to use chemistry to make fertilizers was a man named John Bennet Lawes (December 28, 1814 to August 31, 1900). He inherited a place called Rothamsted from his father in 1822. For a while he just experimented with putting manure on his plants and field crops. Then he came up with a way to treat phosphate rock with sulfuric acid; he patented his work in 1842. He also started a fertilizer factory. A year later, a chemist named Joseph Henry Gilbert started working with him. They worked as a team for more than 50 years, studying everything from the effect of fertilizers on crops to animal nutrition. Sir Lawes was good at thinking up original ideas, he knew a lot about agriculture, and he was the kind of man to take (and pay) for risks. Sir Gilbert was more of a scientist, and he both detail- oriented and hardworking. As a result of their work, and then the work of other people during the beginning of the 1800s, making fertilizers from bone meal and guano was common enough to become an industry. The people who made the fertilizer got it from animal bones and (later on) from phosphate rocks. Normal superphosphates were the first fertilizers to be made by Sir Lawes. It was a mix of monocalcium phosphate and gypsum. Some parts of the world still use it, but it isn’t used much in the U.S. anymore. Triple superphosphate was developed later. It is prepared in two stages. During the first stage, phosphate rock is broken down using sulfuric acid. The results are filtered to take out calcium sulfate impurities. The phosphoric acid that is left is applied to more phosphate rock. The result is a highly concentrated monocalcium phosphate. The most popular phosphate fertilizers being used today in the U.S. and Britain are ammonium phosphates. Farmers like them because they provide nitrogen as well as phosphorus. Sources: Phosphorus , by Michael Sommers The elements: phosphorus , by Richard Beatty http://thesaurus.com/browse/guano http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/332872/Sir- John-Bennet-Lawes-1st-Baronet http://www.readcube.com/articles/10.1038/065205a0?local e=en Word Count: 557 Copyscape Clear Date: 12.15.2014

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