Effect of potassium fertilization against frost

Low temperatures may cause significant damage to crop production. It can even be deadly in case of frost.

An adequate fertilization management favours the general health of the plant and the resistance to these adverse climatic conditions. Therefore, crops with proper nutrition will better withstand frost and low temperatures. Numerous studies demonstrate the importance of fertilization in dealing with frost and adverse conditions.

In this respect, potassium has an especially favourable effect, since it regulates the permeability of the cell membrane in addition to the concentration of salts, and therefore reduces damage to freezing plant tissues due to cell dehydration. In this way, it also improves the quality and post-harvest conservation of fruits and vegetables. The following diagram shows the relationship between plants damaged by frost and the contribution of potassium in the cultivation of corn.

Graph: Temperature (ºC) at which crop growth decreases by 50% according to NPK contributed.
Data: Gilbert and Davis (1971)

Likewise, the Nitrogen to Potassium ratio is important. Nitrogen stimulates the growth of new tissues and reduces the level of carbohydrates, thus reducing resistance against frost. Therefore, excessive contributions of nitrogen and a lower N / K ratio can be crucial for plant growth.

In the following graph we can see how temperature affects the growth of a forage crop (Cynodon dactylon) depending on the ratio of NPK provided, measuring the decrease of its growth up to 50% linked to different NPK ratios. At a higher proportion of Potassium for the same amount of Nitrogen, cold resistance is clearly higher.

Graph: Temperature (ºC) at which crop growth decreases by 50% according to NPK contributed. Data: Gilbert and Davis (1971)

On the other hand, winter crops, although they require the same amount of nutrients for their development, reduce their soil absorption due to low temperatures. These conditions affect differently depending on the element studied, their assimilation and translocation within the plant. At that moment, it is advisable to apply foliar fertilizers to ensure that the plant has enough nutrients and continues its development correctly.

As for the requirement of Potassium for the plant, it is increased in the production stage, so it will be necessary to increase its availability for the crop at this time in order not to reduce its yield and final quality of the harvest.

For more information about fertilizers with high content of assimilable potassium formulated by Adler Agro, please do not hesitate to contact our technical team.