Americans headed West because of… phosphorus?

I found this an interesting historical quirk…

Phosphorus is essential to all life forms. It is essential for DNA, RNA, ATP and many other biological functions. There is no substitute – it’s present in every cell. Without phosphorus you would quickly die. Fortunately almost every diet contains more than enough of the RDA of 0.8g. Phosphorus makes up 1% of our bodyweight although this is locked up in cells and bones. The phosphorus in food is utilised and then all of it is excreted.

Phosphorus clearly seemed important to Roosevelt, and the reason was because of fertilizer. Phosphorus is an integral part of fertiliser (NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium). In most cases the reason for reduced yield is insufficient phosphorus. In natural ecosystems, the most common reason they can’t expand is because of a lack of phosphorus. One of the reasons early Americans headed west was because eastern fields became phosphorus deficient.

via Taking Stock of Phosphorus and Biofuels — Seeking Alpha.

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