ISSUE 3 May 27, 2010
ANHYDROUS AMMONIA SUPPLY
I have received reports that anhydrous ammonia supply is short this spring. There have been rumors that certain ammonia suppliers have stopped producing ammonia. Although I have received unconfirmed reports that the syn-fuels ammonia production is shut down for annual maintenance in Beulah, no other regional ammonia suppliers have stopped production. With the late fall 2009 harvest and wet soil conditions hampering fall ammonia application, the memory of low wheat protein levels resulting in higher N rate application, and low soil test N rates also resulting in higher application rates, the result is a much greater demand for N than in previous springs. Also, in 2008, high grower profits resulted in nearly every grower in the region upgrading equipment; tractors are bigger, equipment is wider, seeders and planters are wider, and the on-farm logistic equipment required to prepare a seed-bed and seed faster and more efficiently have been upgraded. Growers that used to seed everything in 20 days now seed everything in 10 days. On the other hand, most fertilizer manufacturers have spent most of their energy and money buying up competitors and have done little to upgrade their distribution network with regards to anhydrous ammonia. Anhydrous ammonia manufacturing is a touchy business. In the US, the industry hung on by a thread during years when off-shore production was cheaper than domestic production. Recently with higher wholesale prices a few plants have reopened. However, the basic storage for this region has not changed. Safety concerns and high insurance rates hamper expansion. The tragic ammonia rail disaster in Minot several years ago certainly contributed to caution in regards to expansion in that area. Urea and liquid fertilizer storage has increased, but not anhydrous ammonia; at least not from what I have witnessed. This wet period should allow storage at least at the retail level to fill up. For those growers that had to continue to plant without an anhydrous ammonia application, top-dressing with stream-bars or urea with Agrotain top-dressing in solid-seeded crops, and side-dressing in row crops is in their future.
FOLIAR ZINC APPLICATION
Some growers have seeded corn or dry bean without a zinc application on soils testing less than 1 ppm. After corn has a few leaves, and after dry bean growth reaches the first trifoliate leaf, a foliar zinc application using about 1 lb/acre zinc as a zinc chelate would be helpful. This application is more expensive than a dry broadcast application or application as a starter band, but it is still effective in warding off a possible zinc deficiency.
NDSU Extension Soil Specialist