What is Potash?

Potash refers to any of various salts that contain potassium (symbol K in the periodic table of elements) in water-soluble form.  The most common potassium-bearing salt in nature is potassium chloride (KCl).

Where does the name come from?

The term 'potash' is derived from 'pot ash', after the old method of extracting potassium carbonate (K2CO3), which consisted of leaching wood ashes and evaporating the resulting solution, leaving a white residue called 'pot ash'. 

How does potash occur in nature?

Potassium is the seventh most common element on earth, which can be found in heavy soils and sea water, which typically contains 390 mg/l K.

Large potash bearing rock deposits occur in many regions of the world deriving from the minerals in ancient seas which dried up millions of years ago.  Potash is mined from these deposits in most potash producing countries.  The Dead Sea is also a natural reservoir of many minerals, including potash, which is found in high enough concentrations for commercial production. 

What is it used for?

More than 90% of potash produced in the world is used for fertilizers.  It normally requires simple separation from salt and other minerals and physical grading into a form suitable for fertilizer manufacture or farm spreading.

Why do plants need potash?

Potassium is one of the three principal components of fertilizers, which are labelled by their N-P-K content (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium). Potassium fulfils many vital functions in a wide variety of processes in plants, and there are minimal environmental risks associated with this nutrient.  In brief, potassium raises yields and food value, builds disease resistance, and it improves shipping, handling and storage qualities of crops.  Normally, surplus intake is naturally recycled by the return of potash in plant tissue (leaves from trees, cereal stubble and roots, etc.) at the end of each season. 

Do humans need potassium?

An adult human requires around 2 grams/day of potassium and typical intakes are 2.8 - 4.5 grams/day, from milk and dairy products, fruit juices, root vegetables, and bananas which are a rich source of potassium.  Potassium consumption is part of a healthy diet.

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