Potash is the common name for various mined and manufactured potassium bearing salts in water-soluble form. Potash is mostly used as fertilizer with muriate of Potash (MOP) being the most common. MOP or sylvite is a naturally occurring mineral found in large underground deposits formed by the evaporation of trapped ancient seawater. These deposits are often deep and require underground mining methods to recover the minerals. Mining methods include conventional underground mining or solution mining.
Potassium-rich minerals are an essential nutrient for the plant growth process, especially water utilization and the regulation of photosynthesis. It also improves root strength and crop durability, thus protecting plants from drought, disease, and cold weather. Additionally, potash enhances nutrient value, taste, color, and texture.
As plants grow, they remove nutrients from the soil which are utilized in their tissues. When crops are harvested, these nutrients are removed from the field and must be replaced to keep the land healthy and productive. If the soil has an insufficient amount of these minerals to support the crop, they must be restored, or crop production will stagnate or cease. The role of potassium cannot be substituted by any other nutrient and MOP is the most common fertilizer used to apply potassium.
The key to improving yields of agricultural produce, farm profits, and maintenance of the environment is the wise use of fertilizer. The United Nations projects the global population will grow to 9.7 billion by 2050. With this population growth, farmable land per person will decrease with increasing demand for higher quality diets. Thus, the need to maximize farmland efficiency by assuring crops have sufficient potassium.
Potassium chloride is primarily used as a fertilizer, but also has industrial applications. These include the manufacture of resins, plastics, synthetic fibers, explosives and detergents. In the oil and gas industry, MOP is used as a drilling-fluid additive. MOP is also used as an animal feed supplement, contributing to enhanced growth and milk production. In the USA, MOP consumption for industrial use is high relative to other nations, with 10% to 15% of US MOP consumption used in industrial products.