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Book: The Role of Potassium in Agriculture
Published by: American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America




  1.  p. i-xvi
    The Role of Potassium in Agriculture

    V.J. Kilmer, S.E. Younts and N.C. Brady (ed.)

    ISBN: 978-0-89118-250-4

    unlockOPEN ACCESS

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Front Matter


In succession with nitrogen and phosphorus, potassium is now given its full recognition as a fertilizer element. While the proposition of Baron Justus von Liebig that the nitrogen requirements of plants could be completely satisfied from ammonia in the air was contested through the field and pot experiments of Sir J. B. Lawes and J. H. Gilbert, the soil was largely accepted as a sufficient source of potassium for plants. Phosphorus availability from phosphate rock was assured by Lawes' acidulation process. Water-soluble mineral deposits as the sources of fertilizer potassium were developed when the process of cation exchange in soils, not understood by Liebig, came to be recognized as the soil characteristic that prevents Liebig's feared loss of potassium by leaching.

As agricultural need for fertilizer potassium became known, exploration and industrial processing provided adequate sources of water-soluble potassium from salt deposits accumulated by fractional crystallization in ancient sea evaporites stored in the geologic column. The potassium cycle, consisting of weathering of feldspar and mica minerals in soil, leaching of potassium to the sea, and returning it to the land as fertilizer, was thus completed.

It is appropriate that the industrial production and crop uses of potassium should be reviewed at the present time, because vastly increased quantities of fertilizer potassium will be required to supply food for increasing billions in the human population. Industry has served commendably well thus far by providing adequate production of suitable fertilizer material to meet current demands. Our mission is to determine the needs for this plant nutrient and to make them known in order that the increasing demands for potassium fertilizer may be anticipated.

Due recognition is given to Dr. J. Fielding Reed, President of the American Potash Institute, and Dr. Lewis B. Nelson, Manager, Office of Agricultural and Chemical Development, TVA, for their initiative in organizing and financing the symposium on potassium and for the invitation extended to the associated societies to become cosponsors of the symposium and now publishers of the proceedings which constitute this book. This symposium represented the most comprehensive treatment of the subject relating to potassium in agriculture ever undertaken in this hemisphere.

May 1968

D. C. Smith, President

American Society of Agronomy

F. L. Patterson, President

Crop Science Society of America

M. L. Jackson, President

Soil Science Society of America


The Role of Potassium in Agriculture includes contributions by a number of outstanding national and international scientists who have firsthand knowledge of the use of potassium and the indispensable role it plays in modern agriculture. The “from mine to man” arrangement of the book illustrates the role of potassium as a vital element from the time it is extracted from the mine or the brine solution to the time it is consumed in foodstuffs or feed. The authors not only explain how potassium is processed into fertilizer, but they evaluate and compare the different forms of potassium used in today's agricultural industry. Experienced researchers describe the chemical and physical behavior of potassium in the soil and in the plant itself. Other researchers explain the nutritive effects of potassium not only on the more common forage, fruit, vegetable, and field crops of the United States but also on the tropical crops grown in the Southern Hemisphere.

Though this book is by no means an exhaustive treatise on the role of potassium in agriculture, the most important facets of potassium technology and use are thoroughly explored. The book is directed to extension workers, farm managers, college and high school teachers, applied research groups, members of the fertilizer industry, teams concerned with the use of potassium in developing countries, and others with specific interests in potassium and its use in fertilizer.

The papers published here were presented at a symposium held at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, June 18 and 19, 1968. The symposium was sponsored by the American Potash Institute, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America. The editorial committee is grateful to the authors and to these organizations for their aid and cooperation. The advice and tireless efforts of Matthias Stelly, Richard C. Dinauer, and David M. Krai on the staff of the headquarters office of the three scientific societies are worthy of special acknowledgement.

May 1968

The Editorial Committee

V. J. Kilmer, Tennessee Valley Authority, Muscle Shoals, Alabama

S. E. Younts, American Potash Institute, Atlanta, Georgia

N. C. Brady, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York


Samuel S. Adams Geologist, Geological Department, The Anaconda Company,
Salt Lake City, Utah (formerly Geologist, International Minerals
& Chemical Corporation, Skokie, Illinois)
Stanley A. Barber Professor of Agronomy, Department of Agronomy, Purdue
University, Lafayette, Indiana
Roy E. Blaser Professor of Agronomy, Department of Agronomy, Virginia
Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, Virginia
George A. Cummings Associate Professor, Department of Soil Science, North Carolina
State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
Orvis P. Engelstad Agronomist, Soils & Fertilizer Research Branch, Tennessee
Valley Authority, Muscle Shoals, Alabama
Harold J. Evans Professor of Plant Physiology, Department of Botany &
Plant Pathology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon
Roy L. Goss Associate Agronomist and Extension Specialist in Agronomy,
Western Washington Research & Extension Center, Washington
State University, Puyallup, Washington
Billy W. Hipp Assistant Professor of Soil Chemistry, Lower Rio Grande
Valley Research & Extension Center, Texas A & M University,
Weslaco, Texas
William A. Jackson Professor of Soil Science, Department of Soil Science, North
Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
Edwin C. Kapusta Technical Sales Director, Potash Company of America, New
York, New York
E. Lamar Kimbrough Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Agronomy, Virginia
Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, Virginia
Robert C. J. Koo Horticulturist, Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences,
University of Florida, Agricultural Research & Education
Center, Lake Alfred, Florida
W. C. Liebhardt Agronomist, Standard Fruit Company, LaCeiba, Honduras
Robert E. Lucas Extension Specialist in Soils, Department of Soil Science,
Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
K. Mengel Professor, Landwirtschaftliche Forschungsanstalt Büntehof,
Hannover, Germany.
Robert D. Munson Midwest Director, American Potash Institute, Inc., St. Paul,
Werner L. Nelson Senior Vice President, American Potash Institute, Inc., West
Lafayette, Indiana
John Pesek Professor of Agronomy, Department of Agronomy, Iowa State
University, Ames, Iowa
Charles I. Rich Professor of Agronomy, Department of Agronomy, Virginia
Polytechnic Institute, Blackburg, Virginia
Merle R. Teel Formerly Managing Director, American Farm Research Association,
West Lafayette, Indiana (now Professor, Plant
Science Department, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware)
Grant W. Thomas Professor of Soil Chemistry, Department of Soil & Crop
Sciences, Texas A & M University, College Station, Texas
H. R. von Uexkuell Director, Kali Kenkyu Kai (Potash Research Association),
Tokyo, Japan
Richard J. Volk Professor of Mineral Nutrition, North Carolina State University,
Raleigh, North Carolina
Gerald E. Wilcox Associate Pofessor of Horticulture, Department of Horticulture,
Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana
Walter S. Wilde Professor of Physiology, Department of Physiology, University
of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Richard H. Wilson Research Associate, Department of Botany, University of Illinois,
Urbana, Illinois (formerly at the Department of Botany
& Plant Pathology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon)
Ronald D. Young Chief, Process Engineering Branch, Division of Chemical
Development, Tennessee Valley Authority, Muscle Shoals,



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