The average crop requires about ten parts nitrogen to one part phosphorus for robust growth; living plants must maintain a delicate balance between the two nutrients to produce at their best. "If that balance is disrupted, we have a problem," Jaradat says.
Phosphorus propels cell mechanisms and is crucial to the structure of DNA and RNA. Nitrogen helps plants produce proteins, including the key molecules that control photosynthesis.
This eerie photo shows liquid wastes mixing in an impoundment pond in one of Florida's phosphate mining areas.