On this day in 1790, Samuel Hopkins was issued the first U.S. patent for a process that improved the making of potash. But what is potash exactly and why in the world would this matter?
Potash refers to potassium compounds and potassium-bearing materials, the most common being potassium chloride (KCl). Farmers use potash as fertilizer to feed their plants and continue producing more food for the growing world population. Potassium is the third major plant and crop food, after nitrogen and phosphorus.
Potassium has been used since antiquity as a soil fertilizer … and agriculture still comprises about 90 percent of its use today. Potash is important for agriculture because it improves water retention, yield, nutrient value, taste, color, texture, and disease resistance of food crops. In addition to corn fields, potash is also used to grow fruits and veggies, rice, wheat, and other grains.
Demand for potash has increased in recent years, as the need for food has increased. Specifically, rising incomes in developing nations are now demanding more protein which means more animals and more feedstocks to feed those animals.
But farmers aren’t just applying potash and other fertilizers haphazardly. The tractors and implements farmers own today utilize GPS and the soil testing that farmers do on their ground to identify the exact areas where fertilizers are needed for optimum plant growth and they only apply fertilizers there. This minimizes runoff in the water system and also cost to the farmer to purchase the fertilizer.
Would you like to know more about potash and other fertilizers used on farm ground today? Check out this FAQ from the Fertilizer Institute! Fascinating!