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Bio-Intervention of Naturally Occurring Silicate Minerals for Alternative Source of Potassium: Challenges and Opportunities

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  • B. B. Basak
  • B. Sarkar
  • D. R. Biswas
  • S. Sarkar
  • P. Sanderson
  • R. Naidu


Soil needs simultaneous replenishment of various nutrients to maintain its inherent fertility status under extensive cropping systems. Replenishing soil nutrients with commercial fertilizer is costly. Among various fertilizers, deposits of potassium (K) ore suitable for the production of commercial K fertilizer (KCl) are distributed in few northern hemisphere countries (Canada, Russia, Belarus, and Germany) which control more than 70% of the world's potash market. Naturally occurring minerals, particularly silicate minerals, could be used as a source of K, but not as satisfactorily as commercial K fertilizers. In this context, bio-intervention (in combination with microorganisms and/or composting) of silicate minerals has been found quite promising to improve plant K availability and assimilation. This is an energy efficient and environmentally friendly approach. Here we present a critical review of existing literature on direct application of silicate minerals as a source of K for plant nutrition as well as soil fertility enhancement by underpinning the bio-intervention strategies and related K solubilization mechanisms. An advancement of knowledge in this field will not only contribute to a better understanding of the complex natural processes of soil K fertility, but also help to develop a new approach to utilize natural mineral resources for sustainable and environmental friendly agricultural practices.