Frequently Asked Questions
What is potash?
Potash is a potassium-rich salt that is mined from underground deposits formed from evaporated sea beds millions of years ago. Potassium is an essential element for all plant, animal and human life.
Applied as potassium chloride (KCl), potash strengthens plants and aids plant in water retention improving yields, disease resistance and transportability.
Are there viable alternatives to potash?
Approximately 95% of all potash production goes into the agriculture sector, where it is used as a plant nutrient. The role of potassium cannot be substituted by any other nutrient. And potash has no commercial substitute as a potassium fertilizer source.
What are fertilizers?
Fertilizers are plant food. They are combinations of the nutrients that plants must absorb in order to grow. The main elements in fertilizers are: Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium (often referred to as N-P-K). There are a variety of “trace” minerals such as copper, manganese, zinc and boron that are also necessary for normal plant growth.
All plant nutrients, whether found in organic or mineral fertilizers, are identical; however, mineral fertilizers have the advantage of concentration and nutrients can be blended to meet specifications. Mineral fertilizers can be designed to meet the nutritional needs of specific plants and soils.
Why do we need fertilizers?
As plants grow, they absorb and deplete nutrients from the soil. Farmers harvest those nutrients when they harvest the crops. Fertilizers, whether organic or mineral, nourish the soil by returning the essential mineral nutrients.
It has been shown, that in order to produce 10 to 15 kgs of grain, plants require 1 kg of nitrogen. Our atmosphere is made up of 80% nitrogen. Most tropical soils “fix” or draw from the air enough nitrogen to produce about 1 ton of grain per hectare.
To produce more, the plants must have more nitrogen whether as in organic or mineral fertilizers. Plants must also have phosphorous, potassium and “trace “ minerals. If a soil lacks or has an insufficient amount of theses minerals, they must be added as fertilizers or production will stagnate or cease.
Are fertilizers environmentally detrimental?
Poor management of plant nutrients, whether organic or as mineral fertilizers, can mean loss of some nutrients to the environment. This can upset the balance of the natural ecosystems. But if a farmer uses appropriate agricultural practices, the crop will absorb most properly applied fertilizers.
Using too few crop nutrients can also have devastating environmental effects. In the 1930’s, before mineral fertilizers were widely used, nutrient depletion was widespread on agricultural land in North America. The result was the Dust Bowl era with its extensive wind erosion and massive dust storms.
Organic versus mineral fertilizers?
Organic fertilizers typically involves plant residues or livestock manure. The amount of nutrients that they deliver per kilo to the soil can never be accurately measured.
Conversely, mineral fertilizers are chemically processed to meet crop requirements and can supply plant nutrients in exact, scientifically formulated quantities.
One of the greatest benefits of complete and balanced crop fertilization, aside from increasing crop yields and improving farmer profit potential, is its effect on soil organic matter. Both organic and inorganic (mineral) fertilizer sources contribute to the buildup of organic matter in soils. There is widespread public misconception that organic agriculture is more environmentally friendly and maintains improved levels of soil organic matter. However, there is no generally accepted scientific evidence to support the superiority of either organic or inorganic plant nutrient sources. In fact, long-term experiments gathered from around the world indicate that sustained yields and soil productivity can be accomplished with balanced nutrient applications; using either animal manure and/or commercially produced mineral fertilizers.
Can the world be fed using organic fertilizers?
Organic farming is less efficient and produces lower crop yields than farming with mineral fertilizers. This is partly because mineral fertilizers deliver far more essential nutrients per unit than does organic matter. In many countries the depleted soils can no longer deliver enough organic matter to maintain soil health.
If the world’s 1.5 billion acres of farmland were to be farmed organically, we would have enough food for about 2.4 billion people – leaving more than 50% of the worlds 6 billion people without food.
In addition, it is difficult to guarantee an optimal balance among or quality among nutrients using only organic sources. For example, providing enough nitrogen for a crop by applying manure would mean adding 4 to 5 times more potassium and phosphorous than is needed. Runoff can pollute waterways and the life they support.
Mineral fertilizers are generally cost effective, but require an upfront investment that may be difficult for small farmers without credit. Ideally, mineral fertilizers should be used together with organic fertilizers which improve soil structure and the soils water holding capacity. The precision that manufactured mineral fertilizers offer helps overcome the limitation of organic fertilizer.
How have fertilizers benefited the world?
Almost half of the world’s population is alive today because of increased food production as a direct result of mineral fertilizers. Fertilizers and other inputs give the world inexpensive food.
The Green Revolution, the dramatic increases in food production in Asia and Latin America, was made possible by using mineral fertilizers to improve seeds and inputs. The Green Revolution is credited with feeding more than 1 billion people in Asia alone.
The escape from extreme poverty begins with an investment in agriculture.
Can the world manage without fertilizers?
The lack of fertilizers at the turn of the 20th century when the global population was only around one billion was the cause for mass starvation on some of the world’s major continents, as well as major food shortages even in Western Europe. Imagine how today’s world with over 6 billion people would manage.
The key, then, is the wise use of fertilizer to boost crop yields, improve farmer profits, and protect the environment. An important part of environmental protection is improved soil quality through the buildup of organic matter, which can be accomplished by balanced nutrient input, regardless of whether organic, mineral, or a combination of the two sources.