Numerous farmers use fertilizer to provide the major nutrients which can improve the growth and productiveness of plants. Many types arise such as organic, nitrogen, phosphorous fertilizer, and so on. Amongst these, anhydrous has been known as one of the most popular fertilizers. What is it and why do farmers use anhydrous, let’s uncover the mask in my article!
What is anhydrous?
Anhydrous ammonia (NH3) is a highly effective and broadly used source of nitrogen fertilizer for agricultural crops. It helps farmers feed growing plants and replenish nutrients in the soil. Under atmospheric temperature and pressure, anhydrous ammonia is a pungent, colorless and toxic gas.
When used as fertilizer, anhydrous is compressed into a liquid. This requires a considerable amount of pressure and specially designed equipment and containers. Anhydrous is corrosive to certain metals and their alloys, thus all containers used for storing anhydrous should be made of high-strength steel and fittings should be made of black iron.
Is anhydrous safe for humans?
Anhydrous is a hazardous substance. If it is not handled properly, anhydrous can be very dangerous to human.
Anhydrous means “without water”, meaning that it takes up water from the nearest source. Therefore, its state is seeking out moisture, be it from soil or the human body – especially eyes, throat, lungs, or skin because of their high moisture content. Any anhydrous ammonia contacts with our bodies can destroy or freeze skin tissue.
How severely a person is injured depends on the length of the exposure and the concentration level of the gas or liquid. Inhaling anhydrous can cause breathing problems, wheezing, or chest pain. Mild or moderate exposure can result in vomiting, abdominal pain, swelling, and stinging pain whereas severe exposure can lead to corrosive damage to the mouth, throat, and stomach; tissue dehydration; frostbite; temporary or even permanent blindness.
Consequently, victims exposed to even small amounts of anhydrous should seek immediate medical attention to avoid permanent injury.
So, why do farmers use anhydrous?
Anhydrous is a severe danger but it is still used commonly as a preferred nitrogen source for many reasons.
The cost of the fertilizer sector has been rapidly increasing in recent years. Anhydrous is popular for the least-expensive source of nitrogen fertilizer, making it a good option to achieve the lowest cost of production which produces the largest yields.
Nitrogen supports the growth of vegetative plants, which is essential for root, stems as well as seed development. In particular, anhydrous is more concentrated than other forms of nitrogen, covering 82% nitrogen by weight. Other kinds of fertilizer used to provide nitrogen only contain from 28% nitrogen (urea, ammonium, nitrate) to 46% nitrogen (dry urea pellets).
Plus, the use of high nitrogen fertilizers is one of the fastest methods to get nitrogen back into the soil. Due to the stability of anhydrous, it can be applied in the fall and stay there over the winter into spring with less ability to leach, volatilize, or to be lost in water runoff than other nitrogen fertilizers.
Furthermore, it is a relatively easy application and can be applied long before the crop is planted. Anhydrous is also readily available because it is used in the manufacturing process of other nitrogen fertilizers.
More than the use as a fertilizer, anhydrous has other purposes on the farm as well. It has been used with high-moisture grains to control the growth of mold which is well-developed where there is moisture. Additionally, anhydrous is used to add non-protein nitrogen to corn silage.
Precautions when applying anhydrous
Because of the seriousness of exposure to anhydrous, it must be dealt with carefully.
When using anhydrous with grain, use the same precautions when applying it as fertilizer. Ensure to keep equipment in good condition and store it in a safe place away from children and pets.
Remember to wear well-maintained personal protective equipment: face shield, unvented goggles, rubber gloves, respirator when connecting and disconnecting the ammonia hose and fitting.
On top of that, clothing must be heavy-duty and of a tightly woven fabric such as coveralls, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants to restrict the entry of anhydrous.
Last but not least, all agricultural workers handling anhydrous should be specially trained in equipment maintenance and operation as well as personal protective equipment and emergency first aid.
Good nitrogen management can boost plant productivity and bring a large amount of profit to your farm business. Although anhydrous can create severe damages for human bodies, it is far more financially rewarding than more sustainable options. Hope the article helps you know why anhydrous is used by farmers and some precautions when applying it to your farm.
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