Potassium seems to be a “forgotten” nutrient in Western Canada. This is a bit mind blowing as it is a macronutrient and needed in large amounts by the plant. Take a 65 bu/ac wheat crop as an example, it requires 130 lbs/ac of potassium to grow in a season. Compare that to nitrogen at 150 lbs and phosphorus at 52 lbs. As an industry, we tend to focus on nitrogen and making sure we are applying proper amounts of that. We will leave the under application epidemic of phosphorous for another issue of this newsletter and focus on potassium only for this one.
For the large majority of Western Canada we get our potassium in the form of potash, also known as potassium chloride. This is great as our crops need both those nutrients to grow effectively. It should be easy for our crops to get it as it is mined in Saskatchewan, so you would think there has to be some in the soil. We shouldn’t even have to apply any because it is mined right here in Western Canada, right?....Wrong! Potash that is mined is coming from a mile underground. There is no way it will effectively make its way to the surface on its own. Growers need to be looking at ways to supply the potash that crops need.
Why is potassium so important in crop growth? To narrow it in, it is crucial for water regulation in the plant. It helps to balance water within the plant cells and regulates water loss through transpiration. What does this mean? Proper water regulation equates to straw strength for standability of the crop. Transpiration makes sure the crop is effectively managing temperature stresses, which means frost and drought tolerance. Finally, the regulation of water in plant cells also means a healthier plant that is more resistant to some diseases and more tolerant to some insects.
In conclusion, we would suggest trying some potash in you crop nutrition plans for the coming year. If you are already applying some, look at increasing the amounts you are using. In our experience, we have seen profitable responses to K when applied in conjunction with a balanced approach to nutrition. If you are limited on the amount of dry fertilizer you can put down, you may want to look at different ways to apply the nutrient. You can also check out YaraVita SAFE K, a foliar source of potassium that can provide a boost of K at crucial times.
Basic Soil and Plant Nutrition Manual, Yara International ASA
Funding for Research
The Federal government along with Saskatchewan governament announced funding 44 crop-related research projects. Check it out: https://www.realagriculture.com/2019/01/federal-and-provincial-governments-announce-12-million-for-saskatchewan-crop-research/