Growing global demand for food leads to increased pressure on phosphorus (P), a finite and dwindling resource. China is the largest producer and consumer of P fertilizer in the world. A mass balance analysis of historical P use on China's arable land shows that P input substantially exceeds crop P uptake leading to the accumulation of residual soil P.
A Dynamic P Pool Simulator (DPPS) model is applied to estimate future P demand in China's arable land. Our simulations show that more sustainable use of P accounting for the residual P can save ca. 20% of the P fertilizer needed until 2050 in China relative to the Rio + 20 Trend scenario. This saving would be equivalent to half of the P required in Africa or sufficient for Western Europe to achieve target crop P uptake in 2050.