Potassium chemical symbol (K) is one of 17 essential nutrients required for plant growth and reproduction. It is classified as a macronutrient, as are nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). Potash is defined as K2O and is used to express the content of various fertilizer materials containing potassium, such as muriate of potash (KCI), sulfate of potash (K2SO4), double sulfate of potash and magnesium (K2SO4 2MgSO4), and nitrate of potash (KNO3).

Potassium is essential in nearly all processes needed to sustain plant growth and reproduction. Plants deficient in potassium are less resistant to drought, excess water, and high and low temperatures. They are also less resistant to pests, diseases and nematode attacks. Because potassium improves the overall health of growing plants and helps them fight against disease, it is known as the "quality" nutrient. Potassium affects quality factors such as size, shape, color and vigor of the seed or grain, and improves the fiber quality of cotton.

Potassium increases crop yields because it:
Increases root growth and improves drought tolerance
Builds cellulose and reduces lodging
Activates at least 60 enzymes involved in growth
Aids in photosynthesis and food formation
Helps translocate sugars and starches
Produces grains rich in starch
Increases protein content of plants
Maintains turgor, reduces water loss and wilting
Helps retard the spread of crop diseases and nematodes.

Potassium Deficiency Symptoms
Potassium is a highly mobile element in the plant and is translocated from the older to younger tissue. Consequently, potassium deficiency symptoms usually occur first on the lower leaves of the plant, and progress toward the top as the severity of the deficiency increases. One of the most common signs of potassium deficiency is the yellow scorching, or firing (chlorosis), along the leaf margin. In severe cases, the fired margin of the leaf may fall out. However, with broadleaf crops, such as soybeans and cotton, the entire leaf may shed, resulting in premature defoliation of the crop.

Potassium-deficient crops grow slowly and have poorly developed root systems. Stalks are weak, and lodging of cereal crops such as corn and small grain is common. Legumes are not strong competitors for soil potassium and are often crowded out by grasses in a grass-legume pasture. When potassium, is not sufficient, winter killing of perennial crops such as alfalfa and grasses can occur.

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