The importance of the use of potassium in agriculture is increasing in South Asia for making most productive use of the nutrient in terms of economic returns. Nutrient supply traditionally by cattle manure is constrained by its insufficient availability. Municipal waste compost may be an alternative source of nutrient supplements. Field experiments were conducted at the Experimental Farm of Calcutta University, West Bengal, India during the wet seasons of 1997, 1998 and 1999 on flooded lowland rice. Potassium fractions in municipal waste compost and cattle manure were determined by sequential extraction and also the potassium uptake by rice to compare the effectiveness of municipal waste compost with traditional manure. Potassium was significantly bound to the organic matter in municipal waste compost. Potassium uptake by rice grain and straw increased significantly with the combined application of organics and fertilizers and it was higher in grain than in straw. Water-soluble and non-exchangeable potassium contents of municipal waste compost and cattle manure were highly correlated with the uptake of potassium by straw and grain. Exchangeable and residual potassium were also significantly correlated with the uptake of potassium by straw and grain of rice. Much higher uptake of K in rice straw and rain resulted from applying the manures in conjunction with fertilizers than when applied singly. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.