iPlayer Radio What's New?
Image for Feeding the Crops of the Future

Listen now 30 mins

Listen in pop-out player

Feeding the Crops of the Future

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 18 March 2014

Tom Heap looks at whether we're running out of phosphorus. It's an essential element in fertiliser and all life on earth depends on it. Nowadays we get it from mining phosphate rock, which is a finite resource. Some scientists have predicted that we could run out within decades.

Britain has no phosphate rock reserves of its own, and with 80 per cent of known rock under the control of one country, Morocco, should we be taking future supplies more seriously, as a matter of national security?

Tom investigates whether there are alternatives to phosphate rock, such as extracting phosphorus from sewage. He learns about a nineteenth century gold rush in East Anglia, where fortunes were made from extracting phosphate from fossilised dinosaur bones and droppings. In an emergency, could we go back to this old method?

Producer: Jolyon Jenkins.



  1. Image for Costing the Earth

    Costing the Earth

    Man's effect on the environment, questioning accepted truths, challenging those in charge and…

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss