Potassium fertilization of potatoes

Potatoes are one of the most important agricultural crops. Potatoes are plants with the highest potassium demand. With harvest of 40 t per 1 ha potatoes ha take up a total of about 300 kg K2O /ha, of which about 270 kg K2O /ha is taken out from the field with crop.

Importance of potassium for potatoes

Potassium is very important for plants. It increases osmotic pressure and consequently contributes to more efficient use of water, which is important in years with longer periods of drought. With optimal potassium supply, the plants are more resistant to diseases and pests. In addition, potassium has a positive effect on leaf health and nitrogen fertilization performance. Potassium reduces black spotting and the tendency of tubers to discolour during cooking. This component increases the content of citric acid, vitamin C and starch in tubers. Potassium reduces the content of reducing sugars, which is of great importance in food processing. Potassium increases plant resistance to various abiotic and biotic stresses.

A significant decrease in the level of potassium fertilization of potatoes is one of the main reasons for low potato yields and the decrease in their quality. This causes potatoes to store badly and there are large losses during storage, which reduces the profitability of the production of this species. In the event of a potassium deficiency in the soil, nitrogen uptake is significantly reduced. This results in a decrease in the size and quality of potato tuber yield. In plants insufficiently supplied with potassium, the content of nitrates increases which has a negative impact on their consumption quality.

Principles of potassium fertilization of potatoes

Potatoes need about 150 kg N, 45 kg P2O5 and 228 kg K2O to produce a yield of 30 t/ha. In order to achieve a higher yield potatoes need proportionally more nutrients.

Recommended doses of potassium (K2O/ha) based on soil abundance

Abundance of K2O in soil (mg/100g)

Expected yield of potatoes (t/ha)





light soils 10-20% of particles diameter below 0,02mm

Very low
























Very high






gleby średnie 20-30% of particles diameter below 0,02mm

Very low
























Very high






Plants take up potassium during the whole growing season. Most of it, however, in the early stages of development. Therefore potassium fertilizers should be used prior to sowing. Potassium salt containing 60% K2O is one of the most commonly used potassium fertilizers in potato cultivation.

On heavy soils with a highly developed sorption complex, with low risk of leaching potassium, potassium fertilizers can be applied safely in autumn even in the full recommended dose. On lighter soils it is safe to apply 2/3 of the recommended dose of potassium in autumn and another 1/3 in spring. If the risk of washing out is very high (very light soils), it is better to abandon the autumn application of potassium fertilizers.

The highest increases in potato tuber yields as a result of potassium fertilization were obtained on soil with a very low and low content of this component (on average about 20%). These results indicate that on such soils the dose of potassium above 200 kg K2O/ha is economically viable.

Written by dr hab. Wojciech Stępień

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