• Open Access

The effects of potassium fertilization on water-use efficiency in crop plants

Authors

  • Witold Grzebisz,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Agricultural Chemistry and Environmental Biogeochemistry, Poznan University of Life Sciences, Wojska Polskiego 71F, 60-637 Poznañ, Poland
    • Department of Agricultural Chemistry and Environmental Biogeochemistry, Poznan University of Life Sciences, Wojska Polskiego 71F, 60-637 Poznañ, Poland
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  • Andreas Gransee,

    1. K + S Kali GmbH, 34111 Kassel, Germany
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  • Witold Szczepaniak,

    1. Department of Agricultural Chemistry and Environmental Biogeochemistry, Poznan University of Life Sciences, Wojska Polskiego 71F, 60-637 Poznañ, Poland
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  • Jean Diatta

    1. Department of Agricultural Chemistry and Environmental Biogeochemistry, Poznan University of Life Sciences, Wojska Polskiego 71F, 60-637 Poznañ, Poland
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  • This article is based on a talk at the IPI-ISSAS 12th International Symposium on Management of Potassium in Plant and Soil Systems in China, Chengdu, Sichuan, China, July 25–27, 2012.

  • This manuscript is partly based on original data from a PhD thesis as presented in Tabs. 1 and 2 and Fig. 1, 2, and 6.

Abstract

The supplies of water and nitrogen to a plant during its critical stages of growth are the main factors that define crop yield. A crop experiences irregular water deficits during its life cycle in rain-fed agriculture. An effective anti-stress-oriented approach therefore ought to focus on increasing the units of water productivity. The main objective of this conceptual review is to confirm that adequate K management can be used as an important tool to alleviate the negative effects of water deficit on plant growth, yield-component formation, and yield. The French and Schultz approach of using the water-limited yield (WLY) was modified in this review into a graphical form and was used to discriminate between yield fractions that depended on the volume of transpired water from those that were induced by K fertilizer. By using this method, it was possible to demonstrate the extent of several crop (winter wheat, spring triticale, maize, sugar beet) responses to the K supply. Yield increases resulting from K application mostly appeared under conditions of mild water deficit. As described for sugar beet, finding the critical period of crop K sensitivity is a decisive step in understanding its impact on water-use efficiency. It has been shown that an insufficient supply of K during crucial stages in the yield formation of cereals (wheat, spring triticale), maize, and sugar beet coincides with a depressed development in the yield components. The application of K fertilizer to plants is a simple agronomic practice used to increase crop tolerance to a temporary water shortage. It may be that the improvement of a plant's access to K during mild water-deficiency stress will increase water uptake by the root cells, which in turn increases their osmotic potential and thereby allows extension growth. This growth in turn promotes access to other mineral elements (including nitrogen) and water, which favor plant growth and yield.

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