The effect of applying potassium as a countermeasure against radiocaesium in organic soils
Following the Chernobyl accident in 1986, a range of countermeasures has been developed to reduce the transfer of 137Cs from soil to plant and from the plant into grazing animals. One such countermeasure is the application of potassium to the soil. However, little is known of any side-effects such an application may have on the ecosystem, the longevity of the application and the effectiveness in a range of soil types. An application of potash (KCl) was made to four organic upland soils in Cumbria. England at two application rates of 100 and 200 kg K ha-1 in June 1997 and at a single site in June 1998. Following application. a range of parameters within the ecosystem were recorded, through the collection of monthly samples of sail, vegetation and water samples over a period of fifteen months. The results indicate that the application was effective for at least one year following application, that a lag phase existed between potash application and any effect within each ecosystem and that the duration of this phase was site specific. The results also showed that the countermeasure was effective at all sites and there was little apparent difference between the two application rates. The parameters measured which included soil pH, plant biomass, changes in Cu, K, Mg, Mn and Ca concentrations within the soil and vegetation indicated only a relatively small effect of the application on the ecosystem as a whole. The application can be considered as a viable option for reducing the transfer of 137Cs from soil to plant. The study also shows that the effectiveness of the application is dependent on the measurement used. i.e. concentration ratios, Tag values or a total flux approach. It is argued that the flux approach is the most appropriate basis for comparing the effectiveness of potash as a countermeasure between several sites.