Feeding World Population Amidst Depleting Phosphate Reserves: The Role of Biotechnological Interventions

S. Antony Ceasar1, 2 , *
1 Division of Plant Biotechnology, Entomology Research Institute, Loyola College, Chennai, India
2 Functional Genomics and Plant Molecular Imaging, Center for Protein Engineering (CIP), Department of Life Sciences, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium

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© 2018 S. Antony Ceasar.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Division of Plant Biotechnology, Entomology Research Institute, Loyola College, Chennai, India; Tel:+91-44-2817 8348; E-mail:


Phosphorus (P) is an important macronutrient affecting the growth and yield of all crop plants. Plants absorb P from the soil solution as inorganic phosphate (Pi). More than 70% of the arable land is deficient of Pi which demands the supply of an external source of synthetic P fertilizers to improve the yields. The P fertilizers are manufactured from non-renewable rock phosphate reserves which are expected to be exhausted within the next 100-200 years. This poses a great threat to food security since it is very difficult to meet the food production caused by increasing world population without the supply of an adequate P fertilizer. Several efforts have been made in the past decade to understand the mechanism of Pi uptake and its redistribution in plants. In this mini-review, we discuss the details on possible strategies to combat the crisis caused by loss of phosphate rock reserves and to improve the crop yield without much dependency on external P fertilizer. Approaches such as application of functional genomics studies to manipulate the expression levels of key transcription factors and genes involved in low Pi stress tolerance, molecular marker-assisted breeding to develop new varieties with improved yields under Pi-deficient soils and to recapture the Pi released in wastewaters for recycling back to the farm lands, will help improve the crop production without depending much on non-renewable P fertilizers and will also aid for the sustainable food production.

Keywords: Phosphorus, Inorganic phosphate, Phosphorus fertilizer, Phosphate rock, Marker-assisted breeding, Fertilizer.