Depleted Supply of Potash Could Lead to Agricultural Collapse

 

Have you ever checked out a conventional fertilizer label before? If you have, you know that the three main ingredients that are used are nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. These are labeled as N-P-K. It is essential that these elements are used in appropriate amounts and levels in order to prevent burning out your soil, or killing off the soil’s natural beneficial microorganisms. In other words, we, as home gardeners, always really need to mind our Ns, Ps, and Ks.

What many people don’t know about these elements that go into fertilizers is that two of them are minerals that must be mined from the earth. Potassium, or “potash”, is a mineral that is mined then processed before it is spread on fields. Potash is a very large part of commercial farming, especially the farming of grains. The problem with this is that since it is mined, it is not a renewable resource. Once it is taken out of the earth, it does not re-grow, at least not at a rate that makes it obtainable to us. Like oil, once we take it and use it, it’s gone.

With current industrial farming methods, the methods on which most people rely entirely to obtain their food, potash is being consumed at an extremely rapid rate. Therefore, the earth’s supply of obtainable potash will soon simply run out. When this happens, a huge portion of modern agriculture will collapse.

Conventionally farmed cereal grains require between 45 and 60 pounds of potash per ton of grain. Since mono-cropping (growing only one crop on an acreage) is common, the soil is depleted of its natural nutrients. These farmers then rely on artificial replenishment, i.e. use of synthetic fertilizers. Since many are contractually obligated to Monsanto to purchase a certain type of seed and output a certain crop, they see that they have no choice but to continue mono-cropping and synthetically fertilizing their fields. And the vicious cycle continues.

Additionally, studies have shown that farmers can improve the health of the soil in their fields by tilling under the unused crop biomass rather than harvesting or burning it. This allows nutrients to be returned to the soil over the winter so that it is in better health for the next planting season in the spring. However, this is hardly ever done by farmers who practice industrial farming. The normal practice here is to leave fields bare then replenish them with synthetic fertilizers in the fall. This means more potash.

So here are the major problems with potash:

  • We’re using a lot of valuable oil and other resources to mine it and transport it.
  • Extraction of potash peaked in the 1970s and has been depleting since. That’s 40 years of running closer and closer to empty.
  • Current methods of its usage can really be defined as overusage. They are wasteful, destructive and unsustainable.

What are some alternatives to using potash in your garden? Well there are definitely organic farming methods of supplying your soil with potassium that are quite effective. One of the best ways is to compost the unused crop fibers from your garden, then use this compost as a soil amendment. Manure is also a great, organic way to add potassium to your soil. You can purchase organic manure at your local garden store, or if you seek out your own, make sure it’s herbivore manure. Manure is a renewable resource and is much safer and healthier for your garden soil.

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