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Rajan Bhatt and Manoj Sharma
Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kapurthala (Punjab),

Potassium scenario is changing day by day. Generally it is assumed that in the indo-gangetic plains of
Punjab, Haryana potassium is in ample amount but latest reports revealed that potassium status starts
declining because of it’s excess removal in the exhaustic cropping patteren. At Kapurthala district of Punjab,
we analyzed 2026 soil samples in the soil and water testing lab of the Krishi Vigyan Kendra and it is reported
around 65% of the samples falls in lower status (K<137.5 Kg/ha). In these fields, it is economical to go for
Potash application @50 kg/ha. Thus, to demonstrate the effect of potash, we selected 19 fields where potash
status is low and laid out our demonstration. The response of grain yield in the treated plots varied from 2.8
to 6.3% as compared to the control plots. Thus, it is strongly advised to for potassium on the basis of the soil
test reports to have the potential yield.

Key words: Potassium, Soil testing, fertilizers, Indo-gangetic plains

POTASH is the third most important plant nutrient which is required by the plant for carrying out it’s
different metabolic activities and to complete it’s life cycle. The issue discusses the importance of potassium as
a key plant nutrient and problems associated with deficiencies of potassium in the plant. Potassium is second to
nitrogen in plant tissue levels with ranges of 1 to 3% by weight. As a trivia, potassium is the only essential plant
nutrient that is not a constituent of any plant part.
 Potassium is a key nutrient in the plants tolerance to stresses such as cold/hot temperatures, drought
and wear and pest problems.
 Potassium acts as catalysts for many of the enzymatic processes in the plant that are necessary for plant
growth to take place.
 Another key role of potassium is the regulation of water use in the plant (osmo-regulation). Unless
truly deficiency occurs, potassium has very little effect on quality such as colour and density.
However, once potassium deficiency occurs, it can have a dramatic affect on the plants ability to survive
and function during stress periods such as high temperatures, drought and wear. Initial potassium deficiency
shows up as yellowing of older leaf blades, lower leaf blades, which is then followed by dieback of the leaf tip
and scorching of leaf margins as the deficiency problem becomes worse. There are four different sources of
potassium in the soil. The largest soil component of Potassium, 90 to 98%, is the soil minerals such as feldspar
and mica. Very little of this Potassium source is available for plant use. The second soil potassium source is the
Non-exchangeable potassium, 1 to l0 %, and is associated with the 2: 1 clay minerals. Here one Aluminium
layer is sand-witched in between two silica layers e.g Montmorillonite, Beidellite, Vermiculites. The Non-
exchangeable potassium source acts as a reserve source of potassium in the soil. The third soil potassium source,
1 to 2%, is called the exchangeable or readily available potassium and is found on the cation exchange sites or
in the soil solution.
Generally, It is assumed that in the indo-gangetic plains of Punjab, potassium is in sufficent amount but latest

reports and the work done at the Soil testing laboratory of Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kapurthala revealed that

potassium status starts declining in the soils particularly in the central Punjab because of it’s excess removal in

the intensive cropping pattern and the soils having low range of Potash shows it’s response in terms of grain

yield. It was reported from on-farm trials conducted in six states within the All India Coordinated Agronomic

Research Project, that the recommended use of N+P+K led to increased yields of wheat by almost 800 kg/ha

and of rice by more than 500 kg/ha (Shukla et al.* 1998). Similarly, Tandon and Sekhon (1988) suggested that

soils with low available potassium are expected to readily respond to potassium application. Experiments

carried out by Kapur et al. (1984) revealed that wheat responded up to a dose of 75kg K ha–1 on low potassium

soils and up to 50 kg K ha–1 on medium and high potassium soils. On the same lines, Azad et al. (1993)

observed that whereas wheat yield increased significantly up to 75 kg K ha –1 on soils testing low in available

potassium, significant increase in wheat yield was observed only at 25 kg K ha –1 on soils testing medium as well

as high in available K. Based on results of more than 2200 trials with wheat, similar relationship was observed

by Tandon (1980). Tandon and Sekhon (1988) concluded that response of high yielding varieties of rice and

wheat to K application in soils rated medium in available K were only marginally lower than responses in low K

soils. Such results emphasize the need for fresh look at soil fertility limits used for categorizing soils into low,

medium and high with respect to available K, particularly for highly productive rice-wheat cropping system.

Thus soil testing is a must prior to the fertilizer a application.


Kapurthala (A formerly princely state) is one of the smallest districts

of Punjab both in terms of area and population. The district is divided

into two non–continuous parts viz. Phagwara block in one part and

the remaining four blocks in the other part. The agro-climatic

conditions of the district Kapurthala coincide with the Central Punjab

with smooth-plain topography. Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kapurthala is

established on April 1991 and is located at 31o36’ North and 75o37’

East on the sultanpur road at an attitude of 221 meters. Soil and water

testing laboratory of Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kapurthala established in

the year 2005 and it starts working on 2006. It stood 3rd in the state

and 4th in the North Zone of India after analyzing (1673+353*) 2026
samples and thus guiding the farmers regarding the judicious use of fertilizers in agriculture. Following table

clearly depicts the block-wise description of all the five blocks of Kapurthala district along with their fertility

status w.r.t Potash as analysed by Soil and Water Testing Lab of Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kapurthala

Table 1: Block wise detail of all the blocks of Kapurthala districtt along with fertility status w.r.t Potash

Sr.No Name of the Agro-ecological Percentage Total number of Samples Samples

Block Situation of soil samples having low having high
Geographical analysed at soil Potash (< Potash (>
Area of the lab 137.5 137.5 kg/ha)
District kg/ha)

1 Kapurthala AES I : Sandy 66.8 427 63.7% 36.3%

loam soils,
assured irrigation
and good quality
5 Sultanpur AES II : Kallar 421 48.2% 51.8%
Lodhi soils, assured
irrigation with 29.6
variable quality
of water
3 Phagwara AES II : Kallar 111 66.6% 33.4%
soils, assured
irrigation with
variable quality
of water
4 Dhilwan AES III : Flood 18 94.4% 5.6%
prone area, sandy
loam soils, good 3.6
quality irrigation
5 Nadala AES III : Flood -- -- --
prone area, sandy

Samples having low Potash status increased as 63.7, 48.2, 66.6 and 94.4% of the samples received from the

different blocks viz. Kapurthala, Sultanpur, Phagwara and Dhilwan falls in the lower category (Table 1). Instead

of this we had also analysed 696 soil samples from the different villages of nakodar and Jallandhar distraict on

demand basis. It was observed that Samples having low Potash status increased as 65, 42, 84, 71 and 60% of

the samples received from Bajwa-Kalan, Adampur and Alampur of Jallandhar district and jarkpur of Nakodar

district (Table 2).

Table: 2 Village wise detail of Jallandhar and Nakodar district w.r.t Potash status

Sr. No. Village Total sample analysed Samples having low Potash Samples having high
(< 137.5 kg/ha) Potash (> 137.5
1. Bajwa- 200 65% 35%
2. Nakodar, 200 42% 58%

3. Adampur, 96 84% 12%

4. Jarkpur, 100 71% 29%
5. Alampur, 100 60% 40%

Further, it is analysed that out of total 353 soil samples which were selected for carrying out the Front

Line Demonstration during the last four years, 74% of the selected plots were low in potash. In this regard, to

check the response of potash in low K soils, we selected 19 fields having low Potash status (K>137.5 kg/ha)

from the farmer’s fields and demonstrate the effect of potash by broadcasting Murate of potash @ 50 kg/ha on

one acre and treating the other as control from the 2007-2010.


To prove the importance of Potash in agriculture particularly in low K soils, we conducted 19

demonstrations at the farmer’s fields in Wheat and paddy crops from the year 2007 to 2010. In these

demonstrations, first initial inherent soil fertility with respect to Potash was analysed at the soil and water testing

laboratory of Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kapurthala and only fields having low potash status were selected and the

results of these demonstrations were as under

Table 3: Effect of Murate of potash in the fields having Low potash status (< 137.5 kg/ha)

Locations Initial Potash Yield (q/ha) %

status (kg/ha) Increase
with 'K' without

Rabi 2007-2008

L1 130.5 (L) 46.92 44.52 5.3

L2 129.5 (L) 45.55 43.65 4.4

L3 109.3 (L) 46.90 45.08 4.0

L4 90.5 (L) 46.68 44.60 4.6

L5 112.0 (L) 47.42 44.82 5.8

Rabi 2008-2009

L1 102.0 (L) 45.5 47.5 4.4

L2 106.0 (L) 42.5 44.8 5.2

L3 131.0 (L) 45.0 47.7 6.3

L4 86.5 (L) 47.5 49.3 3.6

L5 111.0 (L) 44.5 46.8 5.1

Kharif 2009-10

L1 111.0 (L) 70.0 72.0 2.8

L2 131.5 (L) 78.75 82.0 4.1

L3 119.0 (L) 76.25 79.75 4.5

L4 111.5 (L) 70.0 73.0 4.2

Rabi 2009-2010
L1 120.5 (L) 47.25 45.5 4.0

L2 131.0 (L) 47.32 45.0 5.2

L3 116.0 (L) 49.17 46.5 5.8

L4 110.5 (L) 49.67 47.50 4.6

L5 125.5 (L) 50.00 48.0 4.2

From the above data, it is observed that in rabi season increase in the grain yield varied from 4.0 to

5.3%, 3.6 to 6.3% and 4.0 to 5.8% as compared to the control plots from 2007 to 2010 whereas, in Kharif 2009-

2010, the grain yield varied from 2.8 to 4.5% in the treated plots as compared to the control plots. Yield

response to applied potassium is a function of crop, variety, soil characteristics and application of other

nutrients. Earlier studies conducted on large number of farmers fields showed that application of 50 kg K ha–1

gave response of 290 and 240 kg grain ha–1 in wheat and rice, respectively (Randhawa and Tandon, 1982).

Average agronomic response of 6 kg grain kg–1 K to the application of 37.5 kg K ha–1 was observed in rice and

wheat. In later studies carried out in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, response of rice to 25-50 kg K ha–1

ranged from 210-370 kg grains ha–1 (Meelu et al., 1992). Similarly Sharma et al., 1978, Stillwell et al., 1975,

Yadvinder Singh and Khera, 1998 found that significant responses of wheat to applied potassium were observed

up to 25 kg K ha–1 on soils testing low in available potassium in Punjab, but no significant increase in wheat

yield was observed on soils testing medium and high in available potassium. In the similar way, Rana et al.

(1985) observed that rice responded to 50 kg K ha–1 on soils testing low and medium in-available potassium, but

no significant response to applied potassium was observed on soils testing high in available potassium. Field

experiments conducted at different locations in the Punjab showed that rice responded more to applied

potassium in north-eastern districts (Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Kapurthala and Hoshiarpur) than in central and south-

western districts (Ludhiana, Bathinda, Sangrur, Ferozepur) (Singh and Bhandari, 1995). Thus, soil testing is a

must prior to fertilizer management to have the potential yield.


Application of potassium fertilizer will be determined by factors such as soil potassium level, soil type, time of

the year and use activity for the site. As with any nutrient, potassium programs should be based on soil test

results and it’s report and only those filed having less than 137.5 kg ha-1 be selected to carry out demonstrations

of Potash. Sandy soils with low cation exchange capacity (CEC), will require light frequent applications of
potassium fertilizer as opposed to clay type soils. During periods of heavy use, apply light, frequent applications

of potassium to the soil. From the above discussion, we conclude that farmers must test their soil prior to

fertiliser application and only fields having low Potash status applied with Potash @ 50 Kgha-1.

Azad, A. S., Bijay Singh, and Yadvinder Singh. 1993. Response of wheat to graded doses of N, P and K in
soils testing low, medium and high with respect to P and K in Gurdaspur district of Punjab. Journal
of Potassium Research 9: 266-270.

Kapur, M.L., Rana, D.S., Bijay-Singh and Sharma, K.N 1984. Response of maize and wheat to potassium
application in soils differing in available potassium status. Journal of Indian Society of Soil Science
32: 442-444.

Meelu, O.P., Yadvinder-Singh, Maskina, M.S., Bijay-Singh, and Khind, C.S.1992. Balanced fertilization
with NPK and organic manures in rice. pp. 63-74. In Balance Fertiliser Use for Increasing Food
grains Production in Northern States, Potash and Phosphate Institute of Canada – India Programme,
Gurgaon, India.

Rana, D.S., Deol, P.S., Sharma, K.N., Bijay-Singh, Bhandari, A.L. and Sodhi,J.S, 1985. Interaction effect
of native soil fertility and fertilizer application on yield of paddy and wheat. Journal of Research
(PAU) 20: 431-436.

Randhawa, N.S., and Tandon, H.L.S. 1982. Advances in soil fertility and fertiliser use research in India.
Fertiliser News 26: 11-26.

Sharma, K. N., Brar J.S., Kapur, M.L, Meelu O.P., and Rana, D.S. 1978.Potassium soil test values and
response of wheat, bajra and gram to fertilizer K. Indian Journal of Agronomy 23: 10-13.

Shukla, N.D., Shukla, A.K. and Mishra, P.O. 1998: Production potential, production efficiency and
economic variability of rice-wheat systems under farmers' and researchers' practice of fertilization.
Fertilizer News, pp. 59-67, May 1998

Singh, B. and Bhandari,A.L. 1995. Response of cereals to applied potassium. pp. 58-68.

Stillwell, T.C., Sekhon, G.S. and Arscott, T.C. 1975. Response to potassium fertilization of three Punjab
soils. Indian Journal of Agricultural Science 45: 149-151.

Tandon, H.L.S. 1980. Fertilizer use research on wheat in India. Fertiliser News. 25: 45-78.

Tandon, H.L.S. and Sekhon, G.S. 1988. Potassium Research and agricultural Production in India. 144 pp.
Fertiliser Development and Consultation Organization, New Delhi

Yadvinder-Singh, and Khera, T.S. 1998. Balanced fertilization in rice-wheat cropping system. pp. 74-87. In
Brar, M.S. and Bansal, S.K. (eds.) Balanced Fertilization in Punjab Agriculture. PAU, Ludhiana,
India; IPI, Basel, Switzerland; PRII, Gurgaon, India.