Grasslands provide grass and fodder to sustain the growing need for ruminant meat and milk. Soil nutrients in grasslands are removed through withdrawal in these livestock products and through animal manure that originates from grasslands and is spread in croplands. This leads to loss of soil fertility, because globally most grasslands receive no mineral fertilizer. Here we show that phosphorus (P) inputs (mineral and organic) in global grasslands will have to increase more than fourfold in 2050 relative to 2005 to achieve an anticipated 80% increase in grass production (for milk and meat), while maintaining the soil P status. Combined with requirements for cropland, we estimate that mineral P fertilizer use must double by 2050 to sustain future crop and grassland production. Our findings point to the need to better understand the role of grasslands and their soil P status and their importance for global food security.