P & K – A few interesting facts about the history (and future) of fertilizer

We’re all familiar with P & K and the essential nature of their relationships with growing modern crops. As the time of the year approaches for spring applications and we have fertilizer on our minds, we thought we’d share a few interesting articles we’ve found about a small town that used to exist close to home, and a wonder of infrastructure half a world away.

Antioch – the potash capital of Nebraska

Boom town of Antioch, NE, with potash plants in the background

When the First World War broke out the United States was cut off from European sources of potash. Two University of Nebraska chemistry graduates developed a method for separating potash from the alkaline lakes of the Nebraska Sand Hills and began large-scale production in 1916. The tiny village of Antioch grew into a 2,000 member boom-town until shortly after the end of the war, when importation of the cheaper French and German potash resumed. The last Antioch plant closed in 1921, leaving only the ruins that still remain there today. Here’s a short write-up about Antioch with some great pictures at Only In Your State.

The world’s longest conveyor belt

The Bou Craa conveyor running through the Western Sahara.

The World’s largest conveyor belt system runs from the Moroccan occupied Western Sahara to a port city 61 miles away and can be seen from space! This system conveys 2,000 metric tons of phosphate rock per hour from the mines of Bou Craa to the port city of El-Aaiun to be shipped around the world. It is estimated that Morocco may hold 85 percent of the world’s reserves of phosphate rock, some of which moves along this conveyor. There’s a good chance that at some point the phosphate that we’ve handled began it’s long journey to our fields on this very stretch of machinery in an isolated desert on the other side of the world. Read an article about it here at The Sieve.