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Potassium deficiency in agricultural soils is a largely unrecognized but potentially significant threat to global food security if not addressed, new research from UCL, the University of Edinburgh and the UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology suggests. Researchers are included.

the study, published I nature food, It was found that more potassium was being extracted. Being included in many regions of the world. It also makes a series of recommendations on ways to mitigate the problem.

An important nutrient for potassium. which aids in photosynthesis and respiration, a deficiency of which can stunt plant growth and reduce crop yields. Farmers often spread potassium-rich fertilizers on their fields to replenish depleted nutrients, but supply issues can limit its use, and there are lingering questions about its environmental impact.

Researchers report that globally, about 20 percent of agricultural land is severely deficient in potassium, with regions most likely to be more severely deficient, including 44 percent of agricultural soils in Southeast Asia, 39 percent in Latin America, percent, 30 percent in sub-regions. Sub-Saharan Africa and 20% in East Asia, mostly due to more intensive agricultural practices.

Co-author Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography) said, “Potassium is critical to sustaining the production of crops that feed the world, and its deficiency is a critical issue for the food security of millions of people around the world. The threat is there. It’s an overlooked problem that needs to be addressed with multiple initiatives as the world’s population continues to grow.”

Farmers often rely on potash as a fertilizer to replenish their field potassium, but the price of the mineral can be quite volatile. Potash production is highly concentrated, with just twelve countries dominating the nearly £12 billion international market for potash fertilizers, with Canada, Russia, Belarus and China producing 80% of the world’s total crude potash.

The researchers highlight how in April 2022, the price of potash increased by 500% from the previous year, following a “perfect storm” of factors, including increased demand for fertiliser. the recovery from the pandemic, a range of government measures around the world, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Russia and Belarus together export about 42 percent of the world’s potash supply, but after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Britain, the United States, Canada and the European Union imposed import restrictions on both countries, disrupting global supplies. added and increased the price increase.

Since the initial price hike, the price of potash has fallen by about 50 percent, but remains high, raising concerns that farmers are not making enough fertilizer to maintain food supplies under the current system. will not be able to access.

Co-author Dr Peter Alexander of the University of Edinburgh said, “Potash price fluctuations have major implications for the global food system. Access to potassium is critical for farmers to maintain their crop yields, but Recent high potash prices have made it more difficult for the most vulnerable to afford it.”

This concentration and weakness of the market is one of the reasons why researchers have called for better management of potassium and a stronger intergovernmental coordination mechanism. Currently, there are no national or international policies or regulations for sustainable management of soil potassium similar to those being established for other important crop nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.

In 2021, global potash consumption reached 45 million metric tons, with new projects starting in Belarus, Canada, Russia, Australia, Eritrea and the United Kingdom, with global production expected to increase to around 69 million metric tons in 2025.

However, potash mining has raised human rights concerns and has significant environmental impacts. Potash mining produces millions of tons of waste, mostly containing sodium chloride salts, which can leach into the soil and make soil and water tables saline, harming plants and animals.

The effects of potassium fertilizer runoff on local ecosystems are poorly understood, and the researchers recommend further research into its effects.

Lead author Will Brownlee of the UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology said, “The Potash mining and use in agriculture is something that needs more scrutiny. We still don’t understand much about the effects of artificial potassium enrichment on nearby ecosystems. By judiciously managing nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, we can achieve multiple benefits, prevent pollution, promote , and minimize nutrient loss. It’s about integrating our approach for better farming results.”

The researchers made six recommendations for policies and practices to prevent potential declines in crop yields, protect farmers from price volatility, and address environmental concerns. Recommendations include:

  1. Compile a global assessment of current potassium reserves and flows to identify countries and regions most at risk
  2. Establishing national capacities to monitor, predict and respond to fluctuations in potassium prices
  3. Further research on the implications of limited potassium production in various crops and soils to help farmers maintain sufficient potassium in the soil.
  4. Assessing the environmental impact of potash mining and developing sustainable application practices
  5. Developing a global circular An economy that minimizes consumption and maximizes reuse and recycling of nutrients
  6. Enhancing intergovernmental cooperation through the United Nations and other agencies to develop global policy coordination as developed for nitrogen.

More information:
Will J. Brownlee, Potassium neglect threatens global food security, Nature’s food (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s43016-024-00929-8. www.nature.com/articles/s43016-024-00929-8

Reference: Soil potassium depletion threatens global crop yields (2024, February 19) Retrieved February 19, 2024 from https://phys.org/news/2024-02-potassium-depletion-soil-threatens-global.html Obtained

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