Many farmers and custom applicators will soon apply anhydrous ammonia (NH3) after harvest. Even with a rush against time and the weather, safety should never be compromised. Accidents involving NH3 have proven how dangerous and deadly the fertilizer can be when not handled properly.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) offers the following tips to farmers, fertilizer dealers, and custom applicators to safely field apply NH3.
- Always wear NH3-rated goggles and gloves. Never wear contact lenses.
- Be sure to have a clean and accessible emergency water supply of at least 5 gallons available.
- Exercise caution when making connections and disconnections of transfer lines, treating them as if they always contain NH3.
- Stand upwind when connecting, disconnecting, bleeding lines, or transferring NH3. Also, close, bleed, disconnect, and secure valves and transfer lines when taking breaks or disconnecting lines, and be sure to handle hose end valves by the valve body.
- Position equipment away and downwind from homes, people, and livestock.
Safety is also key to those maintaining NH3 equipment, operating NH3 storage facilities, and transporting NH3.
- Never assume NH3 lines are empty.
- Always wear the required protective safety equipment.
- Have access to safety water (NH3 storage facilities must have a minimum of one open top container holding 150 gallons of clean, accessible water or an accessible emergency shower with a plumbed eyewash. A 5-gallon container of clean, accessible water must accompany NH3 nurse tanks).
When towing a nurse tank down the road, drive sensibly. Do not go any faster than 30 miles per hour, display a slow-moving vehicle (SVM) emblem visible from the rear, and be sure the tank is secured to the tractor or truck with two separate, independent chains that supplement the hitch pin/clip.
If an accident or spill occurs, seek medical care if needed, immediately call 911, and then the Minnesota Duty Officer at 1-800-422-0798 or 651-649-5451.
You can find more safety, storage, and transportation information on the MDA’s website.
As a reminder, fall application of NH3 should happen after average soil temperatures reach 50 degrees F or cooler to help prevent nitrogen loss and ensure more nitrogen will be available for next season’s crop.
Under the MDA’s Groundwater Protection Rule, fall nitrogen fertilizer application is prohibited in vulnerable groundwater areas of Minnesota due to environmental concerns or risks. View a map of the vulnerable regions of the state.
Allen Sommerfeld, MDA Communications