Managing for Phosphorus and Other Resources in Globalized Agriculture

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 9:30 AM
Graham K MacDonald1, Nathaniel D Mueller2, Elena M Bennett3, Kate A Brauman1, James S Gerber1, Genevieve S Metson3 and Paul C West1, (1)University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Minneapolis, MN, United States, (2)Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, United States, (3)McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
Agricultural trade has an important effect on the distribution of resource use among regions. Trade is particularly important for understanding human impacts on the phosphorus (P) cycle, as mineral P reserves are geopolitically concentrated. Yet, P use is only one component of the broader agro-environmental dimensions of globalized agriculture. Understanding complex interactions among multiple components of land use and resource management in trade networks is needed. We fuse comprehensive global agricultural datasets illustrating key facets of land use and management with bilateral trade statistics to explore phosphorus-use efficiency in relation to other agro-environmental indicators. Our findings illustrate tradeoffs among phosphorus-use efficiency, nitrogen-use efficiency, crop-water productivity, and overall crop yields embodied within trade networks. Disparities in the land-use intensity of different exporting countries reflect the types of commodities produced, the degree of export-orientation, and the biophysical context of production. Phosphorus inefficiencies could compound other problems, such as water scarcity, but our findings also reveal places with relatively high efficiency across multiple indicators—offering insight on how overall resource management can be balanced for export production. Using the prevailing agricultural systems of key exporting regions as a backdrop, we highlight opportunities to leverage agricultural efficiencies embodied in global trade networks to conserve multiple resources.