Cassava is often grown in low-fertility soils and has a reputation for having modest nutrient requirements. The storage roots that are harvested, however, contain relatively large amounts of potassium (K). We carried out a field experiment in Laos to determine the growth response to K fertiliser and to examine the field’s K balance over the cropping season. Four different rates of K (0-40-80-120 kg K2
O equivalents ha−1
) were applied to cassava variety Rayong11. Harvests were done at 8 and 10 months after planting, when the crop was at early and full maturity respectively, to assess if any benefits for productivity or K balance could be achieved by early harvest. We found a positive effect of K fertiliser (up to 39% yield increase compared to no K fertiliser at early harvest, 21% at late harvest) and a positive effect of late harvest (on average a 35% increase compared to early harvest) on cassava root yield. Low-K crops benefited more from a late harvest. At 10 months, the harvested cassava contained 99–142 kg K ha−1
, indicating that there was a net removal of K from the fields, even at high K fertilisation levels. This experiment was carried out in comparatively fertile soil with relatively high background K levels, yet, yield benefits of K fertilisation were observed and soil K reserves were depleted by the harvest. It can be concluded that K fertilisation of cassava is advisable for better yields and to avoid progressive depletion of the soil K capital.
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