Hope for Sirius from crop studies

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The company behind the York Potash project has reported encouraging results from crop studies on potatoes from three separate universities.

The news comes just a month before Sirius Minerals hopes to hear whether it will get planning permission for the potash mine which promises to create thousands of jobs.

Results from potato studies at three separate universities, the Scottish Agricultural College, the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin, showed that polyhalite (a high-performing potash mineral found in North Yorkshire) produced yield increases of between nine and 10 per cent.

The studies also found that polyhalite reduced glucose content by 20 per cent, which is a benefit when potatoes are fried.

Chris Fraser, managing director and CEO of Sirius, said: “By carrying out these trials in these important markets like the United States and UK, where potatoes are a key crop, we continue to validate the effectiveness and value of polyhalite.”

The world potato market is estimated at 365 million tonnes and crops are grown on 19.3 million hectares of land.

Potatoes are sensitive to harmful chlorides so they are an ideal crop for polyhalite which is essentially chloride-free. Potatoes also have a large need for sulphur, which is one of the main nutrients in polyhalite.

The European Union accounts for 13 per cent of the overall global potato production and also has the highest level of potato consumption in the world at 90 kg per person per year.

Sirius submitted the final information about plans for its proposed York Potash Project to the relevant local authorities in February and said it looks forward to a decision being made in the near future.

The decision is expected in May following the submission of supplementary environmental information for its mine, mineral transport system and materials handling facilities.

Sirius claims that 2,140 jobs will be created if the project gets planning permission and the mine would contribute £1bn to the British economy each year.

In addition it says it will pay £234m in tax contributions to the Government each year, with £48m being paid to the local economy.

Last month Sirius raised around £15m from ​an over-subscribed placing to ​bolster its balance sheet. ​

The potato crop results follow positive corn cob trials comparing Sirius’s polyhalite with ordinary potash. Polyhalite improved corn cob height by nine per cent and reduced the severity of sheath blight by 71 per cent.

Sirius said that corn is the largest cereal crop in the world, demanding 7.33 million tonnes of potash.

“Another strong performance from polyhalite on such widespread and important crops is welcome,” said Mr Fraser.