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Prioritizing safety in Anhydrous Ammonia handling after harvest

Prioritizing safety in Anhydrous Ammonia handling after harvest

By Scout Nelson

As the NH3 application season begins following the harvest, safety is a paramount concern for those involved in agriculture. While NH3 is a valuable fertilizer, it can be extremely dangerous if not handled properly. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) recognizes this and offers crucial safety tips to ensure that safety is never compromised.

NH3 Application Safety Tips for Farmers and Applicators:

  • Protective Gear: When working with NH3, always wear NH3-rated goggles and gloves. Never wear contact lenses, as they can pose risks.
  • Emergency Water Supply: It's essential to have a clean and accessible emergency water supply of at least 5 gallons readily available.
  • Handling Transfer Lines: Extreme caution is necessary when connecting and disconnecting transfer lines. Always treat them as if they contain NH3 to prevent accidents.
  • Wind Direction: When dealing with NH3, position yourself upwind when connecting, disconnecting, bleeding lines, or transferring NH3. Ensure that valves and transfer lines are securely closed, bled, disconnected, and secured during breaks. Handle hose end valves by the valve body.
  • Equipment Placement: To minimize potential risks, position equipment away and downwind from homes, people, and livestock.

Safety measures extend beyond NH3 application to those maintaining NH3 equipment, operating NH3 storage facilities, and transporting NH3. Additional safety considerations include:

  • Checking NH3 Lines: Never assume NH3 lines are empty, and always wear the required protective safety equipment.
  • Emergency Water: Access to safety water is crucial, with NH3 storage facilities needing at least one open-top container holding 150 gallons of clean, accessible water or an accessible emergency shower with a plumbed eyewash. NH3 nurse tanks should carry a 5-gallon container of clean, accessible water.
  • Safe Towing: When towing a nurse tank on the road, adhere to safe practices. Maintain speeds below 30 miles per hour, display a visible slow-moving vehicle (SVM) emblem, and secure the tank to the tractor or truck with two separate, independent chains.

In the unfortunate event of an accident or spill involving NH3, immediate action is imperative. Seek medical care, if necessary, call 911, and then contact the Minnesota Duty Officer at 1-800-422-0798 or 651-649-5451.

For additional safety, storage, and transportation information, visit the MDA's website.

A critical reminder is that NH3 application in the fall should occur after average soil temperatures reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler. This helps prevent nitrogen loss and ensures more nitrogen is available for the upcoming crop season.

It's worth noting that, under the MDA's Groundwater Protection Rule, fall nitrogen fertilizer application is prohibited in vulnerable groundwater areas of Minnesota due to environmental concerns. To check if your area falls under this regulation, refer to the state's vulnerable regions map.

Prioritizing safety when handling NH3 is not just a recommendation but a necessity to protect lives and the environment. By following these essential guidelines, farmers and applicators can ensure a safe NH3 application season.


Photo Credit: gettyimages-darcymaulsby

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