CIRAD (Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement)

SPS 2014 – Sustainable Phosphorus Summit


SPS 2014, the fourth world summit on phosphorus and its global issues, is to be held from 1 to 3 September 2014 in Montpellier (France). Its aim is to address the issue of phosphorus, from a regional to a global scale, along with its many interactions with our societies.

SPS 2014 will be held just after PSP5 - Phosphorus in Soil and Plants, 5th International Symposium, to take place in Montpellier from 26 to 29 August 2014. A Young Scientist Workshop is also scheduled for 31 August 2014 (with the support of LabEx AGRO), to be attended by 42 junior researchers from North and South, with the aim of preparing a communiqué on the main research issues and constraints, to be presented at SPS 2014.

These events make up PHOSPHORUS Week 2014.

The major issues surrounding phosphorus concern the increasing scarcity of the resource, its environmental impact (surface water eutrophication), the emerging economic and geopolitical constraints and the possibilities for better recycling and more efficient use, particularly in the agriculture and food sectors.

Five major themes

  • P in our world - the global phosphorus cycle, sustainability issues, food security, and geopolitical and governance issues
  • P in our resources and environment - mining resources (natural phosphates), P processing and phosphate fertilizer production, transfers by erosion and impact of phosphorus on the environment (surface water eutrophication)
  • P in our fields - phosphorus use in agriculture, mineral and organic fertilization, efficiency of acquisition and use by crops
  • P in our food - phosphorus use in human and animal nutrition, effects on health, and impact of dietary changes
  • P in our wastes - phosphorus recycling, waste water and agricultural and urban waste treatment (manure, agrifood industry co-products, domestic waste), closure of the phosphorus loop.

Phosphorus in southern countries

Philippe Hinsinger, researcher at INRA and Deputy Head of UMR Eco&Sols, explains that 'Phosphorus is a major nutrient whose scarcity in most tropical soils often makes it the main limiting factor for crop productivity, along with water and nitrogen '.

Phosphorus losses due to erosion and their role in surface water eutrophication are one the main impacts of the element on the environment and ecosystem services linked to lake and sea aquatic ecosystems.

The limited nature of the natural phosphate resources used to produce phosphate fertilizers (they are likely to run out within the next few decades) is generating increasing pressure (price rises, geopolitical tension due to the very unequal distribution of the resource) on a global scale.

These questions are particularly problematical in southern countries, which cumulate largely unfertile soils and strong economic constraints that limit farmers' access to mineral fertilizers. The ecological intensification of agro-ecosystems offers new prospects in response to this issue of phosphorus availability, which is a major issue for southern countries.

CIRAD's research activities on phosphorus

  • the phosphorus bio-geochemical cycle , and at its heart, the matter of phosphorus availability and bio-availability in the soil, its biotic determining factors, phosphorus flows within agro-ecosystems, in the soil, between the soil and plants, between the soil and surface water, linked to erosion, and links with the carbon and nitrogen cycles.
  • recycling of the phosphorus in organic waste, urban waste (sludge, household waste compost) and manure, in which a large proportion of the phosphorus consumed by people and animals concentrates. In southern countries, this is a phosphorus source that could be put to better use.
  • phosphorus mobilization by soil microorganisms plays a key role in the phosphorus cycle, on both its organic and mineral forms. Stimulating the microbial activities responsible and adding microbial inoculants if needs be are levers that would be worth using in agro-ecology.
  • phosphorus acquisition linked to root system architecture and functioning is one of the 'roots of the second green revolution', given the low mobility and availability of the nutrient in the soil, since little is known about and little use is made of genetic diversity so as to develop crops and plantations better suited to limited soil phosphorus supplies.
  • the role of mycorrhizal symbiosis in phosphorus acquisition, which is known to play a role in the phosphate nutrition of most agriculturally worthwhile plants and forest species in warm regions, offers further possibilities for ecological intensification of agro-ecosystems in southern countries.

The research units involved

  • Functional Ecology and Biochemistry of Soils & Agroecosystems (UMR Eco&Sols)
  • Water Management, Stakeholders and Uses (UMR G-eau)
  • Laboratory of Tropical and Mediterranean Symbioses (UMR LSTM)
  • Recycling and Risk (internal research unit).

CIRAD's research on phosphorus is therefore covering all the different aspects, in places as diverse as Réunion, Latin America (Brazil and Costa Rica), Congo, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, Madagascar and Thailand.

A meeting between science and society

SPS 2014 aims to foster meetings between the academic world (researchers, teaching staff and students) and the various stakeholders, be they economic players from the private and public sectors, associations or NGOs. A B2B (business to business) area will be available to participants throughout the event.

  • three days of exchanges between science and society
  • 150 to 300 participants expected, both scientists and stakeholders, from more than 40 countries
  • five scientific sessions with 124 posters
  • a B2B area to foster exchanges between economic and academic players
  • a young scientists workshop (YSW)
  • 40 grants for young researchers from North and South to fully fund their participation.

This international summit is being organized under the aegis of the GPRI ( Global Phosphorus Research Initiative).
The first European Sustainable Phosphorus Conference brought together 300 participants in Brussels in March 2013, and the next is to be held in Berlin in 2015, European Sustainable Phosphorus Platform (ESPP).

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