Potassium- a Declining Plant Nutrient

Rajan Bhatt,
Assistant Professor (Soil Science) Krishi Vigyan Kendra,Kapurthala (Punjab) rajanbhatt79@rediffmail.com,(98159-63858)

Potash is the third most important plant nutrient which is required by the plant for
carrying out it’s different metabolic activities and to complete it’s life cycle. The issue discusses the importance of potassium as a key plant nutrient and problems associated with excess and/or deficiencies of potassium in the plant. Many plant physiologists consider potassium second only to nitrogen in importance for plant growth. Potassium is second to nitrogen in plant tissue levels with ranges of 1 to 3% by weight. As a trivia, potassium is the only essential plant nutrient that is not a constituent of any plant part.
1. Potassium is a key nutrient in the plants tolerance to stresses such as cold/hot

temperatures, drought, wear and pest problems.
2. Potassium acts as catalysts for many of the enzymatic processes in the plant that are

necessary for plant growth to take place.
3. Another key role of potassium is the regulation of water use in the plant

(osmoregulation). This osmoregulation process affects water transport in the xylem, maintains high daily cell turgor pressure which affects wear tolerance, affects cell elongation for growth and most importantly it regulates the opening and closing of the stomates which affect transpirational cooling and carbon dioxide uptake for photosynthesis. Unless truly deficiency occurs, potassium has very little effect on quality such as color and density. However, once potassium deficiency occurs, it can have a dramatic affect on the plants ability to survive and function during stress periods such as high temperatures, drought and wear. Initial potassium deficiency shows up as yellowing of older leaf blades, lower leaf blades, which is then followed by dieback of the leaf tip and scorching of leaf margins as the deficiency problem becomes worse. Once these conditions occur, wear injury for the turf plants will increase significantly. Factors which can lead to potassium deficiency include: 1.leaching in sandy soils or soils with low CEC values.

2. Sites being irrigated with water that is high in sodium and where high rates of calcium and magnesium or added through the irrigation water or through the fertilization program. There are four different sources of potassium in the soil. The largest soil component of Potassium, 90 to 98%, is the soil minerals such as feldspar and mica. Very little of this Potassium source is available for plant use. The second soil potassium source is the Nonexchangeable potassium, 1 to l0 %, and is associated with the 2: 1 clay minerals. The Nonexchangeable potassium source acts as a reserve source of potassium in the soil. The third soil potassium source, 1 to 2%, is called the exchangeable or readily available potassium and is found on the cation exchange sites or in the soil solution. The soil solution potassium is readily taken up by the plants root system and is then replaced by the potassium on the exchange sites. A fourth source of potassium in the soil is the potassium contained in organic matter and within the soil microbial population. This soil source of potassium provides very little of the potassium needed for plant growth. Potassium uptake is most rapid on warm, moist soils that are well aerated and have a slightly acidic to neutral pH. As soil temperature increases, plant metabolic activity increases which increases root growth and root activity. Warmer soil temperatures also increase the diffusion rate of potassium in the soil solution which increases potassium uptake by the root system. Excess soil moisture can lower soil oxygen levels which in turn decrease the respiration rate for the plants root system and thus lowers potassium uptake. Also, excess water can increase the amount of leaching of potassium, particularly in sandy soils. In alkaline soils, increased levels of other cations such as calcium, potassium and sodium can affect the availability of potassium in the soil. The calcium and magnesium cations can displace the potassium from the exchange sites on the clay particles and sodium competes with potassium for uptake by the plants root system. Application of potassium fertilizer will be determined by factors such as soil potassium level, soil type, time of the year and use activity for the site. As with any nutrient, potassium programs should be based on soil test results and it’s report and only those filed having less than 137.5 kg ha-1 be selected to carry out demonstrations of Potash. 1. Sandy soils or soils with low cation exchange capacity (CEC), will require light frequent applications of potassium fertilizer as opposed to clay type soils with high to very high levels of potassium. Soils with high levels of other cations such as calcium, magnesium or sodium will also probably require more frequent, light applications of potassium. When applications of amendments and/or fertilizers containing high rates of calcium or magnesium are used, a

follow up application of potassium should be made to the site since these cations can displace potassium from the soil exchange sites. 2. As use of the site increases, so should the amount of potassium fertilization. During periods of heavy use, apply light, frequent applications of potassium to the soil. 3. Spring and fall is the most important time of the year to make potassium fertilizer applications. Potassium is a key nutrient in the development of new root growth. In the fall, plant tissue levels of potassium are very critical in preparing the plants for winter survival. Low plant tissue levels in the fall to early winter months can dramatically increase the potential for winter injury. Thus at last we can say that Potassium is a key essential plant nutrient. In this connection, to prove the importance of Potash in plants, 14 demonstrations had been carried out by Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kapurthala (Punjab) at the farmer’s fields in Wheat and paddy crops from the year 2007 onward. In these demonstrations, first initial inherent soil fertility with respect to Potash was analysed and only fields having low Potash status were selected and in these demonstrations potash was applied @ of 50 kg ha-1 . Demonstration 1. Effect of Potash fertilizer on wheat yield during Rabi 2007.
Soil Fertility Status: Sr No. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Name of the farmers and address Variety Date sowing 9-11-07 11-11-07 6-11-07 14-11-07 16-11-07 of Initial Potash status (kg/ha) 130.5 (Low) 129.5 (Low) 109.3 (Low) 90.5 (Low) 112.0 kg (Low)

Sh. Gurdeep Singh S/o Sh. Sunder PBW-343 Singh, Vill: Kolianwal Sh. Jasjeet Singh S/o Sh. Hari Singh, PBW-343 Vill: Blerkhanpur Sukhwinder Singh S/o Sh. Mohinder PBW-343 Singh, Vill: Blerkhanpur Sh. Gurcharan Singh S/o Sh. Gurmej PBW-343 Singh, Vill: Talwandi Mehma Sh. Mohinder Singh S/o Sh. Kesar PBW-343 Singh, Vill: Blerkhanpur

Result
Sr Name of farmer Date of Date of Effective 1000 grain Yield (q/ha)

N o.

sowing

Harvest ing

tillers/M2 with 'K' without with 'K' 'K' 384

wt/M2 without with 'K' 'K' 44.86 (6.0%) 46.92 without 'K' 44.52 (5.3%) 43.65 (4.4%) 45.08 (4.0%) 44.60 (4.6%) 44.82 (5.8%)

1. Sh. Gurdeep Singh s/o 9-11-07 Sunder Singh, Vill: Kolianwal 2. Jasjeet Singh S/o Hari 11-11-07 Singh, Vill: Blerkhanpur 3. Sukhwinder Singh S/o 6-11-07 Mohinder Singh, Vill: Blerkhanpur 4. Gurchetan Singh S/o 14-11-07 Gurmaij Singh, Vill: Talwandi Mehma 5. Mohinder Singh S/o 16-11-07 Kesar Singh, Vill: Blerkhanpur

26-4-08 386

47.56

28-4-08 378 24-4-08 376

377 376

46.30 47.92

43.80 (5.7%) 46.12 (3.9%) 45.68 (5.3%) 46.96 (4.5%)

45.55 46.90

28-4-08 380

379

48.08

46.68

30-4-08 388

385

49.06

47.42

Discussion : Highest response or percent increase in yield was observed in the field of Sh. Mohinder Singh S/o Kesar Singh of village Bleirkhanpur as supported by the other parameters viz. Effective tillers/M2 (3t/m2) and 1000 grain wt (9.1%) (Maximum increase in these parameter in response to potash as compared to others). However, percent increase in 1000 grain weight varied from 6.21 to 9.10%. Therefore, it was evident that 4.0 to 5.8% increase in grain yield is possible if Potash fertilizer is applied in potash deficient soils. For this, testing of soil samples is must. 2. Demonstrations regarding the judicious use of Potash fertilizer during wheat 2008-09. Result
Sr. No. Name of the farmer and address Vari ety Date of Date of K status Grain Yield (q/ha) sowing harves (kg/acre ting ) Contr Treated 50 Percent ol kg MOP Increase per ha PBW- 17-11-08 22-4-09 40.8 45.5 47.5 4.4 343 (Low) PBW- 12-11-08 343 20-4-09 42.4 (Low) 42.5 44.8 5.2

01. 02.

S. Karamajit Singh S/o Sh. Swaran Singh, Vill: Mirpur Sh. Surinder Singh S/o Sh. Hazara Singh, Vill: Patti Navi Bakash

03. 04. 05.

Sh. Swaran Singh S/o Sh. Gurmail Singh, Vill: Boolpur KVK, Kapurthala farm Sh. Gurdeep Singh S/o Sh. Sunder Singh, Vill: Kolianwala

PBW- 10-11-08 502 PBW- 26-11-08 550 PBW- 10-11-08 343

20-4-09 52.4 (Low) 28-4-09 34.6 (Low) 16-4-09 44.4 (Low)

45.0 47.5 44.5

47.7 49.3 46.8

6.3 3.6 5.1

Discussion

It was observed that the percent increase in the grain yield by applying murate of potash @ 50 kg/ha varied from 3.6 to 6.3%. 3.
Result Sr. Name of farmers No. and address 1. Sh. Surinder Singh S/o Sh. Hazara Singh, Vill: Patti Navi Bakash Sh. Sarwan Singh S/o Sh. Gurmail Singh, Vill: Boolpur Sh. Gurdeep Singh S/o Sh. Sunder Singh, Vill: Kolianwal Sh. Harjeet Singh S/o Sh. Mohinder Singh, Vill: Biharipur Variety HKR47 Date of Date of K status Grain yield (q/ha) transplan harvesting T1 T2 (50 kg ting Control MOP/ha) 28-6-09 1-11-09 111.0 (L) 70.0 72.0 % Increa se 2.8

Demonstrations regarding the judicious use of K fertilizer during kharif 2009

2. 3. 4.

Pusa 44 Pusa44

22-6-09 20-6-09

30-10-09 28-10-09 30-10-09

131.5 (L) 119.0 (L) 111.5 (L)

78.75 76.25 70.0

82.0 79.75 73.0

4.1 4.5 4.2

HKR 127 28-6-09

The percent increase in the grain yield varies from 2.8 to 4.5% in the plots where Potash applies @ 50 kg/ha as compared to the control plots in the low K-status soils.

Thus, at last it is important to state that, Potash is an important plant nutrient which support the plant in facing the adverse conditions and to improve tfood quality, but at the same time it is also important that Potash should be applied only in the soils having low Potash status viz. K <137.5 kg ha-1.

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