Prior to World War I, the United States was importing nearly a million tons of potash annually from Germany for use as fertilizer. Following the outbreak of war potash prives rose due to a halt in the flow of imports. Several companies were chartered to extract potash from domestic alkali lakes in the Sandhills. The ruins of the Antioch potash plants survive as reminders of this short-lived boom industry.
By 1918 five companies were in operation to extract potash by evaporating lake water and collecting the ptash-rich rediue. Major plant components included: solar or wind powered tower evaporators, concrete reservoirs, large steel steam evaporators, dryers, crushers, warehouses, railroad trestles, and a cariety of shops and houses to provide for the needs of employees. By early 1920, Germany was once more selling potash to the Unites States for about one-half the cost of the domestic porduct. By the end of the year all Nebraska potash plants were closed and they never reopened.