01
October
2020

Sweater Weather - Potassium Availability

Can you believe that October is already here? It truly is a breathtaking time of year with the leaves beginning to change, the days cooling down and sweater weather is beginning. Although, I could’ve used another 6 months of nice summer weather, fall is a wonderful time of year. 

Over the years it has been excellent practice to take time to soil sample your harvested fields around this time. I cannot even count the number of fields I have had the opportunity to do this on. It is always an enjoyable adventure and a worthy practice. So much can be learned as we walk the fields at this time. It’s a good time to analyze soil structure and biological activity. Count the earthworms, look at roots from the harvest, and admire the growth of your cover crops. I have often walked with growers and as we pull soil plugs we also observe what is happening at this time and what to concentrate on. Is the trash/residue heavy and should you address it by increasing biology in the soil? Have the cover crops started out with a good root base?

If you have planted crops that are to grow over the winter, you may want to address potassium in an available form. 

Here is a little explanation about the role of potassium in plants and why it is so important as a macronutrient. 

Potassium is an essential nutrient to plant health, just like it is to human health. Often when we see high levels in the soil it is in a form that is not readily available. This is why tissue sampling is also critical during the growing stages of a plant's life. Comparing soil and tissue levels of potassium can really show how much of it in the soil is truly plant-available.

 

"So why is potassium so important in plants?" 

 

Did you know that over 50% of the earth's crust is made of Feldspar, which is a large group of rock-forming silicate minerals? These minerals are predominately high in potassium and as they weather and are broken down by organisms in the soil,  they release that potassium, “freeing it up”. As crop residues break down on the soil surface and animal residues decompose, the available potassium will seep down into the soil. 

Potassium is associated with many metabolic processes and functions in plants. It is well-known that potassium activates as many as 60 enzymatic and plant hormonal reactions. Also, it is critically vital to protein synthesis and has a fundamental role in regulating leaf stomata openings and controlling water usage in the plant. When we have drought conditions and available potassium is limited, plants have reduced yields, poorer quality and are more susceptible to pest damage. An important reason to address potassium in the fall on plants that grow over the winter is the fact that good, available potassium will aid in winter hardiness and plants overcoming environmental stressors and conditions. 

Since our soils often already have an adequate level of potassium in them, the goal is to create an environment where the potassium is broken down into a form that the plant can readily absorb. This is where maintaining a living soil through cover crops,, nutrient-rich and healthy soil inputs play such a great role. As the crops grown are used in food for humans and animals we need to understand the importance of the value of nutrient-dense foods. The human recommended daily diet allowance of potassium is 4,700 milligrams per day. Diets high in potassium and low in sodium have been shown to reduce blood pressure and strokes. In animals, potassium is the most abundant cation in the intracellular fluids which helps maintain salt balance between cells and body fluids. 

So, potassium is important, but it is important to remember to use a healthy and available source of potassium to your plants or soil. Promoting and maintaining life in the soil will go a long way to help create an abundance of available nutrients for your healthy plants to thrive on. 

If you are ever wondering how to find available potassium you can always send me an email or call me, I am here for you. I would encourage you, if you have not yet, to get out in the fields and take a soil sample. My team here can help you read the analysis and develop a plan for you soil and plants.

During these times I believe staying positive, eating healthy and enjoying each day as a blessing is so important to our well-being. 

 

Until next time, 

Dave 

Categories: Reading the Fields

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