Phosphorus Paradox: Scarcity and Overabundance of a Key Nutrient
In between shepherding the United States through the Great Depression and bracing the country for war in Europe, then-President Franklin Roosevelt took a moment in 1938 to tell Congress about phosphorus.1 More specifically, he spoke about phosphates, the most commonly commercially exploited form of phosphorus. Roosevelt’s was not a scientific presentation but a cautious alert about the critical role this element plays in agricultural production. Private interests were exporting increasing amounts of the country’s phosphates to markets abroad, he warned. Given the prospect that this vital constituent of fertilizer could come into short supply domestically, Roosevelt recommended framing a formal policy to deal with a strategic issue.