Finite Phosphorous, November 2014

November 23, 2014

visiting scientist and PhD candidate Kenneth Mbene receiving certificate from SA Committee Chair John Radcliffe
Visiting scientist and PhD candidate Kenneth Mbene receiving certificate from Crawford Fund South Australian Committee Chair John Radcliffe

Supported by the Crawford Fund, visiting scientist and PhD candidate Kenneth Mbene, is studying at the University of South Australia’s Centre for Environmental Risk Assessment and Remediation (CERAR). He is investigating the key agricultural nutrient – phosphorus.

Understanding more about phosphorus is critical because it is essential for plant growth and has no alternative source. Sourced from phosphate rock, the nutrient is currently added to soil in the form of fertiliser, which all modern agriculture systems depend on.

Mbene will take what he’s learnt from University of South Australia’s expertise in the field back to his home country of Cameroon. “We have to be particularly careful in Cameroon because most Cameroonian soil is from a volcanic origin and is phosphorus deficient, meaning we have to supplement the soil with fertilisers.”

Time is running out according to CERAR’s Chair in Environmental Science, Professor Nanthi Bolan, who says the world could see a food security crisis in the near future due to the decline in phosphorus availability.

“The good news is that phosphorus can be captured and recycled and this is the area we are focussing on. One option, for example, is through animal manure management. Poultry manure is rich in plant nutrients including phosphorus,” Prof Bolan says.

Mbene hopes his research will be able to provide advice to both Cameroonian farmers and the government. “My research training at UniSA, which is supported by the Crawford Fund, has been very useful and the results I have obtained here will constitute two chapters in my PhD thesis at home.”

Related material
The disappearing nutrient at the centre of global food security, News from the University of South Australia, by Rosanna Galvin