Phosphorus (P) is a vital mineral for all crops. Farmland has to be supplied with phosphorus regularly by applying fertiliser, in order to provide crops with sufficient phosphorus. P fertilisers are produced out of rock phosphates by means of different processes from sedimentary (fossil) or magmatic deposits. Rock phosphates from sedimentary deposits are characterised by a high content of elements which can also be detected in standard fertilisers.
Scientists at the Institute of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science of the Federal Agricultural Research Center in Braunschweig, Germany have found that commercial P-fertilisers also contain the toxic radionuclide uranium (U). From their own analyses and extensive literary enquiries they have discovered that because of the high affinity of U to phosphorus, the U content originally contained in the rock phosphates of 13- 75 mg/kg, during the reprocessing to super- or triple-superphosphorus raises to 85-191 mg/kg. Fertilizers with two-nutrients (NP or PK) contain 89-96 mg/kg U, NPK-fertilisers 14 mg/kg U. Sewage-sludges reaches a content of 4-32 mg/kg U. Fertilisers without any P components (N-, K-, NK-, Mg-, S- and lime fertiliser) have contents of more than 1 mg/kg U. But, remarkably, in spite of their significant P content, farmyard manures and slurries are only slightly contaminated with U (seldom above 2 mg/kg U).
U is the heaviest naturally occurring chemical element and as a radioactive alpha-emitter and toxic heavy metal is recognised as a risk for human health and the environment. The German scientists say that this doubly increased threat has been unrecognised until now.
Margit Fink | idw
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