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Practice farm safety when using anhydrous ammonia as corn fertilizer

Practice farm safety when using anhydrous ammonia as corn fertilizer
Widely used as a key fertilizer for corn, anhydrous ammonia must be handled with a keen eye on farm safety practices.

Corn needs nitrogen fertilizer and anhydrous ammonia is widely used for just this purpose. While it is one of the top choices for farmers to use, it must be handled and stored properly or serious injury can result.

Related: Check Soil Temperatures Before Applying Anhydrous Ammonia, Urea

Premier Ag offered a meeting in early in March to talk farm safety and safe anhydrous use. Jerry Boger and Jim Sweigart, both safety risk coordinators for the Indiana cooperative, presented the workshop offering farm safety advice and proper anhydrous handling procedures.

Anhydrous ammonia: To ensure use in the future, we must be responsible and use caution when handling and storing this and all chemicals on our farms.

"Anhydrous is safe when handled properly and respected," Boger said. "A colorless liquid when under pressure, a colorless gas when allowed to expand, anhydrous is lighter than air, and expands to 850 times its liquid volume when released."

A person has risk to anhydrous ammonia exposure when transferring product, connecting containers, transporting, and during application. Precautions should be in place to prevent accidents, but proper and timely response are both key when accidents do occur.

Anhydrous means "without water." Anhydrous ammonia is dry or pure undiluted ammonia and though not a poison, it is a strand corrosive that seeks moisture, producing severe burns upon contact with skin. Water is the only appropriate first response to exposure. Continuously washing and flossing the affected area is recommended in all cases.

Related: Take This Chance to Look Inside an Anhydrous Ammonia Tank

Have abundant water available while handling anhydrous ammonia. Recommendations suggest carrying 1-2 gallons in the vehicle transporting tanks, the tractor applying the fertilizer and an emergency tank on the wagon. Checking these reserves periodically throughout the application season is a must as well.

Proper clothing and equipment is necessary. Non-vented goggles, long sleeve shirts and pants, shoes and socks are mandatory. If clothing is saturated along with the skin, water should be applied first to thaw clothing, which may be frozen to skin.

Vehicles used to transport should be in good condition. Being able to stop and control wagons is the first step to avoid incidents. Chains, pins with clips, and a secure hitch should be in place. Tires on both the pulling vehicle and wagons should be in good repair.

Be aware of increased stopping distance required by the extra weight.

Just like all chemicals, anhydrous ammonia is a regulated substance and if a spill of more than 100 gallons of product should occur, reporting is required to IDEM within 15 minutes.

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