By Clint Thompson
Lakesh Sharma, assistant professor in the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Department of Soil, Water and Ecosystem Sciences, cannot stress enough potassium’s importance in potato production.
That’s why he is concerned about the current conflict in the Ukraine and its potential impact on the essential nutrient’s availability in the future.
“Potassium is not something we can make in the U.S. because 100% of the potassium we use is coming outside of the country,” Sharma said. “Because of this war going on between Russia and the Ukraine, the supply for the potassium is disrupted. Russia is the biggest supplier of potassium in the world.
“I do not see any issue this year because every country has some in reserves for running the show for one year, but I see if things won’t improve the next year, there would be a problem, yes.”
Sharma said potassium is mined in five locations around the world; two in Russia, two in Europe and one in Canada.
Potassium serves multiple roles in developing the potato crop every year. A potential shortage could have huge ramifications for Florida’s potato producers in the future.
“It helps in improving the potato’s ability to take care of abiotic and biotic stresses; for example, disease control, any cold frost injury; protection in that sense,” Sharma said. “If potassium is not in a good amount, then it can also impact the skin set in potatoes.
“In fresh market potatoes, skin set is a very important aspect.”
Florida is in the top 15 in potato production in the country, though it is the largest producer at this time of the year.