IPI International Potash Institute
IPI International Potash Institute

Research Findings: e-ifc No. 44, March 2016

Experiment site in Gia Lai province, 2014

Potassium Effects on the Productivity and Quality of Sugarcane in Vietnam

Tran Duc Toan(1)*, Nguyen Duy Phuong(1), Nguyen Duc Dung(1), Vu Dinh Hoan(1), Nguyen Dinh Thong(1), and Alexey Shcherbakov(2)
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(1) Soils and Fertilizers Research Institute (SFRI), Vietnam
(2) Uralkali, Singapore; former IPI Coordinator for Southeast Asia
* Corresponding author: toantransfri@gmail.com

Abstract

Sugarcane (Saccharum spp.) is an important industrial agricultural crop in Vietnam. Average sugarcane productivity in Vietnam is 64 Mg ha-1, and the average commercial cane sugar (CCS) content is 10%, significantly lower than in leading sugarcane producing countries that achieve 75 Mg ha-1 and 14-15% CCS content. Under rain-fed conditions in Vietnam, low sugarcane performance may be the result of poor nutrition management. In farmers’ practices (FP), nitrogen (N) is generously applied, while phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are generally ignored. The objectives of this 3-year study were to examine and demonstrate the contribution of increased K application to sugarcane yield, quality, and economic benefit under commercial conditions. Field experiments took place from 2012 to 2015 in a parallel design in Gia Lai (Central Highlands) and in Khanh Hoa (Central Coast) provinces. Treatments included six K (KCl) rates (0, 200, 300, 350, 400, 450 kg K2O ha-1) together with 250 kg N and 150 kg P2Oha-1. A local FP was also included as a control. Potassium application significantly improved sugarcane yields by 18.5- 31.5% in Khanh Hoa, and 9.2-26.8% in Gia Lai, compared to FP. CCS content increased from 8% at 0 kg K2O ha-1 to 11-12% at 200 kg K2O ha-1, reaching about 12.5% at the highest doses. In spite of the impressive response to K, the K agronomic efficiency (KAE) was very low, at 67 and 40 kg of cane per kg K2O, in Gia Lai and Khanh Hoa, respectively. The low KAE may be attributed to water deficit problems and rapid nutrient leaching from the root zone. Thus, although the apparent economic optimal K dose is 350-400 kg K2O ha-1, use of additional approaches - such as soil enrichment with organic matter, more frequent K applications, and irrigation - are expected to improve K uptake efficiency, further increase sugarcane yield and quality, and reduce the required annual K dose.

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