Toward a Regional Phosphorus (Re)cycle in the US Midwest

J Environ Qual. 2019 Sep;48(5):1397-1413. doi: 10.2134/jeq2019.02.0068.


Redirecting anthropogenic waste phosphorus (P) flows from receiving water bodies to high P demand agricultural fields requires a resource management approach that integrates biogeochemistry, agronomy, engineering, and economics. In the US Midwest, agricultural reuse of P recovered from spatially colocated waste streams stands to reduce point-source P discharges, meet agricultural P needs, and-depending on the speciation of recovered P-mitigate P losses from agriculture. However, the speciation of P recovered from waste streams via its chemical transformation-referred to here as recovered P (rP) differs markedly based on waste stream composition and recovery method, which can further interact with soil and crop characteristics of agricultural sinks. The solubility of rP presents key tensions between engineered P recovery and agronomic reuse because it defines both the ability to remove organic and inorganic P from aqueous streams and the crop availability of rP. The potential of rP generation and composition differs greatly among animal, municipal, and grain milling waste streams due to the aqueous speciation of P and presence of coprecipitants. Two example rP forms, phytin and struvite, engage in distinct biogeochemical processes on addition to soils that ultimately influence crop uptake and potential losses of rP. These processes also influence the fate of nitrogen (N) embodied in rP. The economics of rP generation and reuse will determine if and which rP are produced. Matching rP species to appropriate agricultural systems is critical to develop sustainable and financially viable regional exchanges of rP from wastewater treatment to agricultural end users.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Animals
  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus*
  • Soil*
  • Struvite


  • Soil
  • Phosphorus
  • Struvite
  • Nitrogen