World Potash Supply

Canada is currently the world's largest MOP producer, producing roughly 70-85% of the 65 million tonnes of global supply. It is followed by Russia, which produced about 7.2 million tonnes of potash in 2017.

China is the largest SOP producer, generating about 1.5 million tonnes a year from brine and another 1.5 – 2.0 million tonnes a year using the Mannheim method.

China is historically one of the largest consumers of potash. In Australia, all potash types are imported. Australian farmers need access to economical and environmentally friendly Australian potash to address depleted Australian soils and to help Australian farmers remain competitive in international markets.    

Why is Potash so important?

When a plant grows, it takes potassium out of the growing zone, which is the area where a plant's roots reside. In Australia, and around the world, many farming growing zones have been leached of potassium.

Potassium: 

  •  affects the quality of the plant, the size, shape, colour and taste;
  •  helps the plant to regulate carbon dioxide uptake;
  •  helps to regulate water uptake and loss;
  •  improves drought resistance;
  •  is essential for protein synthesis;
  •  thickens the cell wall to help the plant resist disease.

Plants deficient in potassium can appear scorched on the leaves, be stunted in growth, and have less water circulation resulting in heat and drought susceptibility. They will also have poor resistance to pests and weak roots.

Why is Sulphate of Potash (SOP) better to use than Muriate of Potash (MOP)?

SOP is doubly essential not just because of the potassium, but also because it provides plants with sulphur – the first micro-nutrient. Every plant needs sulphur. If you add SOP to soils, the plant gets both sulphur and potassium. With MOP, you still face the additional cost of adding sulphur.

SOP doesn't contain chloride and therefore can be put on all crops and plants.

MOP is potassium chloride, and while chlorine is by no means an evil element, a significant portion of the plant kingdom can die if excess is added to the soil and plants have too much. Too much chloride can also kill the soil micro-organisms, therefore, affecting fungi and bacteria. 

SOP has a nil salinity index which means even though it's a salt, it doesn't build up the soil's salinity. In MOP the chloride builds up the salinity index. That means that MOP can, over time, make your lands saltier, unless the water is free draining and can runoff.

SOP can be sown with the seed or near the seedling, ensuring maximum root access to potassium. MOP needs to be a specific distance from seed because if it's too close, the potassium chloride takes water from the germinating seed, therefore burning it. But if it is too far from the germinating seed, the potassium will not stay close to the roots because chloride is a mobile atom and will move with the water, taking the potassium away with it.

Currently, a selection of WA farmer groups is conducting a private study to measure how far potassium chloride ions move, in terms of depth of soil, or into waterways.