Production Blog

Spring Anhydrous Reminders

Pamela Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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It's time to review safety procedures as anhydrous tanks begin to move about the countryside. (DTN photo by Pamela Smith)

Plenty of farmers get anxious to start planting, but I've never had one, not one, tell me they just love to apply anhydrous.

The product deserves a healthy amount of respect -- both for what it does for corn production and for the safety required when working with it.

This week, DTN Reporter Russ Quinn does a great job of outlining safety measures and reminders on how to "be safe" when working with ammonia. You can find it here:….

I'd encourage reading his report. You'll learn why anhydrous seeks moisture and what it means when eyes, lungs and other body parts get a whiff.

Several years ago, I had an assignment to shoot photos of anhydrous application. I thought it would be neat to get the sealed slot close up with the anhydrous rig in the background. We have a saying in this business: "Anything for a picture."

Yeah, well ... I didn't wait long enough, or maybe I disturbed too much soil, but when I went belly down to get the shot, it was enough to also get a full snoot full of ammonia. I couldn't get my breath and it was scary.

Last year, I heard of far too many accidents -- from anhydrous tanks breaking loose on the highway to unintentional releases. Please don't take chances.

Here are some timely reminders from the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association:

-- Slow down! Nurse tanks should not travel down the road more than 25 mph.

-- Always turn the nurse tank valves off at the tank source and disconnect hoses before pulling onto a public roadway. This is required by law. You should never have a "charged" system when sharing the road with other motorists.

-- Nurse tanks should not be operated in low light conditions or before or after sunset UNLESS you have a rotating, flashing amber light on the tank(s). Today's motorists are not as familiar or patient with farm equipment, even in rural Illinois, so it is always best if slow-moving vehicles are kept off the roads during non-daylight hours.

-- Use the safety chains, even in the field of application. Nurse tank trailers are put to the test during the ammonia season, being asked to serve as both highway vehicles and then being pulled through rough fields. The safety chains can save you from catastrophe if the hitch fails. Hook them up every time.

-- Are your breakaway devices working on the toolbars? This is another safety mechanism designed to prevent releases; however, they must be installed and maintained correctly so that they function. Prevention is key.

-- Never hesitate to make the call if you have an ammonia release. Tell the 911 emergency operator exactly what has happened so that law enforcement and fire departments show up prepared to deal with ammonia. Whoever is in charge of the tank at the time of the release must make this call immediately.

For a look at fall application safety:….

For DTN's latest story on anhydrous application:….

Pamela Smith can be reached at

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