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Oct 14, 2010

Climate change and plant nutrition

In the future we will need to make more efficient use of our diminishing natural resources, particularly soil and water, by pursuing an intelligent fertiliser strategy. We have known for some time that there is a close correlation between potassium fertiliser and plant water management.


Now the latest findings show that both potassium and magnesium have a significant impact on root formation.

Relative distribution of carbohydrates between shoots and roots (%). Cakmak et al., 1994a.

Plants that form a weak root system on account of suboptimal supplies of potassium and magnesium will be unable to exploit the meagre water reserves in the soil at times when the water supply to their root system is inadequate. Conversely, plants with strong root growth are able to tap into additional water reserves.


A completely new approach, however, is to take all the soil and plant parameters that impact on the efficiency of water use into account and examine their long-term dependency on supplies of nutrients.


Initial results from a joint research project show that the soil’s ability to store water and make it available to the plants improves significantly with regular potassium fertilisation. In fact, this method resulted in a 14% increase in the useful field capacity - a yardstick for the water storage capacity of the soil. If these results are also confirmed in terms of water use by plants, this would lead to a reassessment of the value of potassium and magnesium fertilisation in terms of more effective use of scarce water resources.

The close correlation between the potassium and magnesium supply to plants and the use of existing water supplies was also demonstrated in field trials. In years with average precipitation, a fertilisation with Korn-Kali brings about an expected increase in yields. In dry years, however, the yield increase percentage is considerably higher. This means that even in field conditions, the plants were better able to convert the existing water into higher yields when they received optimum supplies of potassium and magnesium.

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