Spring is upon us. Muddy flower beds will turn into beautiful flowering yards. And, we will get the much needed Vitamin D from a sun that has for the most part been hiding.
Inventor Samuel Hopkins understood the importance of spring. He was issued the first U.S. Patent on July 31, 1790 for a pot ash and pearl ash apparatus and process. https://www.uspto.gov/about-us/news-updates/first-us-patent-issued-today-1790
Although the patent office itself was not created, a new 1790 patent statute facilitated granting patents. As a result, Hopkins petitioned for a patent and was later issued one signed by President George Washington, Attorney General Edmund Randolph, and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Hopkins_(inventor)
Around the same time (but after Hopkins), patents were issued for a new candle-making process and a flour-milling machine Id. I can guess/understand what these two patents are or what they were for, but I am lost in regards to “pot ash.”
Years later there are organizations like the “Potash Development Association” that can answer our questions:
“In agriculture and horticulture potash is the common term for nutrient forms of the element potassium (K). The name derives from the collection of wood ash in metal pots when the beneficial fertilizer properties of this material were first recognized many centuries ago.”
There’s also this: “Things to Know about Potash:”
It’s Made of Potassium
The element potassium is a member of the alkali metal group and is abundant in nature. It’s always found in combined forms with other minerals in the earth’s crust, particularly where there are large deposits of clay minerals and heavy soils.
Potash is an impure combination of potassium carbonate and potassium salt. Rock deposits bearing potash resulted when ancient inland seas evaporated millions of years ago. The term potash has been commonly used to describe the fertilizer forms of potassium derived from these rocks by separating the salt and other minerals.
It’s Part of History
In the early days, the primary source of potash was the ash from native hardwood trees. The basic chemical compound potassium carbonate was extracted by leaching the ashes in big iron pots to dissolve out the soluble components. Evaporation of the solution through percolation resulted in the production of potash. Potash was used in making fertilizer, glass, soap, gunpowder and dyeing fabrics.
Up until the 1860s, the only sources were hardwood trees and a few other plants. The U.S. dominance in potash production began to decline when natural deposits of the chemical were discovered in dry lake alkali beds in Germany. The outbreak of World War I forced other countries such as Russia and France to develop their own natural sources. Additional sources were discovered in California, Utah and New Mexico.
It’s in Your Food
Ninety-five percent of the world’s potash is used on farms to fertilize the food supply. It’s a critical ingredient that helps to improve crop yields, increase resistance to plant diseases and heighten water retention. It also has a positive effect on food color, taste and texture.
Potash is a component of feed supplements used to grow livestock and enhance milk production. It still has several industrial applications that trace their roots back to the colonial days, including glass, soap and ceramic production.
You Need it in Your Diet
Potassium is an important element of the human diet as it’s involved in both cellular metabolism and body functions. It’s essential for growth and maintenance of tissues, muscles and organs, as well as the electrical activity of the heart.
The average recommended intake for an adult is 4.7 grams per day but the intake level can change depending on your specific medical condition. Good sources of potassium include citrus fruits and juices, milk, chicken, red meat, fish, soy products, root vegetables, bananas, nuts and yogurt.
PotashCorp is the largest fertilizer company in the world, engaged in the production of potash, phosphate, and nitrogen. With a presence in seven countries, it accounts for 20% of global production. In 2009, potash accounted for one-third of the company’s revenues, totaling $1.2B in net sales. More impressive was that the gross margin from potash sales was 71% of the total, ample evidence of the profitability of this business segment.
BHP had its eye on the huge potash deposits in Saskatchewan, and PotashCorp has existing operations with extensive reserves in very stable environments. In addition, the barriers to entry in this business are substantial, requiring significant capital investment and long lead times.
After reading both of these I felt knowledgeable but still thought, “I don’t get this-what is pot ash or pottash or potash (now commonly termed?). Why does it sound like potato and marijuana or possibly something requiring ointment?” Then I found this definition from The United States Geological Survey (A Government Agency):
“Potash is used primarily as an agricultural fertilizer (plant nutrient) because it is a source of soluble potassium, one of the three primary plant nutrients; the others are fixed nitrogen and soluble phosphorus. Potash and phosphorus are mined products, and fixed nitrogen is produced from the atmosphere by using industrial processes. Modern agricultural practice uses these primary nutrients in large amounts plus additional nutrients, such as boron, calcium, chlorine, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, sulfur, and zinc, to assure plant health and proper maturation. The three major plant nutrients have no substitutes, but low-nutrient-content, alternative sources of plant nutrients, such as animal manure and guano, bone meal, compost, glauconite, and “tankage” from slaughterhouses, can be used. Potash denotes a variety of mined and manufactured salts, all containing the element potassium in water-soluble form.”
Thank you for Samuel Hopkins for making the potash process more mechanical. Thus, making potash easily accessible for plants that have acid reflux like me have more base. You’re the Meghan Trainor and the Tums of the plant world. Thank you for allowing for large areas of potash like our local Portland Bulk Terminals, LLC http://www.portlandbulkterminals.com/.
Are you the next Samuel Hopkins? Don’t let your ideas wither especially during spring. We love to help our clients bloom during all seasons but in order for anything to happen we must plant the seeds and maintain. Contact us today to get started.