Testing the ability of plants to access potassium from framework silicate minerals

The availability of K, essential for plant growth, from syenite (a silicate rock in which potassium feldspar is the dominant mineral; N 90 wt%), and phlogopite mica has been demonstrated using carefully designed plant growth pot experiments in which the only added source of K was the mineral of interest, with no loss of nutrients through drainage. Using pure quartz sand as a soil, both growth (increase in diameter) of leek plants and K-content of the plant material showed a dose-dependent positive response to the application (114–43000 mg K/pot) of milled syenite with increases in plant diameter of 0.5–0.7 mm/week, increasing with application rate. Phlog- opite mica (114–6000 mg K/pot) supported the highest observed increase in diameter (approx. 1 mm/week) and plant K-content, both similar to that observed for a positive control (KCl). These experiments demonstrate that plants can obtain K for growth from milled syenite, in which feldspar is the dominant K-bearing mineral, and con- firm previous observations that micas can be an effective source of K.

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