The Necessity of Fertilizers – Guest Post

For Ag week 2014 I have shared with you my story, the story of a young agvocate, and that small steps when taken together can lead to feeding 7 billion people.  Now I would like to introduce you to a new blogger, Kate.  Kate, her husband Matt and their young son Mace farm in north central Missouri. They raise corn, soybean,Red Angus cattle, Tunis and Hampshire sheep.  Kate has always been an agvocate, but has just begun her blogging journey.  She wrote this last night after watching her husband being their planting season for 2014. 

Lambert Farms

Matt and son Mace working at dusk. Photo Credit: Kate Lambert

Tonight we went out to see Matt for a bit, because we haven’t seen him much at all the last few weeks.  He finally finished up calving heifers, but just in time to start field work!

It has warmed up enough to start the first phase of spring planting, applying anhydrous ammonia.  Matt and his Dad apply for their farms as well as custom apply, meaning they are hired to put it on for other farmer’s as well.

Anhydrous ammonia (NH3) is a synthetic form of nitrogen, used in corn and milo production because when we harvest a crop we take nitrogen from the soil that must be replaced.  Nitrogen is a naturally occurring chemical that makes up 78% of the earth’s atmosphere.

NH3 (meaning simply its one part nitrogen to three parts hydrogen) is the most cost-effective and efficient (therefore the most environmentally friendly) source of synthetic nitrogen.  It’s stored in the nurse tanks you often see being pulled slowly down the road by a truck or out in the field behind a tractor.  In the tank the anhydrous is in liquid form and kept under high pressure to keep it as a liquid.

The tank is pulled behind a tractor and a combination of high-tech computer system and application system work to inject the chemical into the soil about 8-10 inches deep where it comes into contact with moisture and instantly turns into a gas.  It is then absorbed into the soil moisture.  At this point, there is no difference between the synthetic nitrogen and natural nitrogen.

Corn, a grass, requires nitrogen to grow.  Our other most common row crop, soybeans, are a legume and actually generate their own nitrogen.

The internet is full of bloggers who like to tell you that all farmers should switch to use of natural nitrogen (manure) and using synthetic fertilizers are a hazard to our environment.

There is one big problem with that idea – the amount of manure we would need.  If we were to replace the 11 million tons of anhydrous used each year with manure, this would require 1 billion more cattle!  Even more shocking, those cows would require an estimated 2 billion more acres of land!

We simply cannot meet the world’s corn demand without using synthetic fertilizers.   Anhydrous ammonia has the highest efficiency (meaning more of it is absorbed by the plant) than any other source, making it not only the most cost-effective option – but the safest option for our soils and health as well!

Farmers are very concerned with applying fertilizer using the best practices to keep cost and waste low, and profits and overall safety high!

The tractor, with an application bar and tank. Note that is dust coming up from under the tractor, not NH3.  Photo Credit: Kate Lambert

The tractor, with an application bar and tank. Note that is dust coming up from under the tractor, not NH3. Photo Credit: Kate Lambert

Thank you Kate for guest posting on COUNTRY LINKed!  To follow along with Kate and her family, visit their website at Uptown Farms or give them a Like on FaceBook.

Blessings to you,

Laurie – Country Link


5 comments on “The Necessity of Fertilizers – Guest Post

  1. Very good! Thanks for this information! I love how easily you laid it out for us non-technical, scientific type! I am always asking my husband questions about NH3 since we don’t use it on our farm. I am looking forward to following your new blogging adventure, Kate! 🙂

  2. Great post! Simple and to the point. We still have snow on the ground in WI, but farmers are itching to get in the field! Looking forward to planting season and the smell of turned dirt!

    • We had storms in the area yesterday, so some will be set back a few more days, but you see activity every where here. Farmers are ready to roll, especially after such a long, cold winter. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. […] guest bloggers and I can not thank them enough for being on here.  Thank you Rebecca, Miriam and Kate!  Your posts were all […]

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