Oct 05, 2010  |  Today's News

As farmers finish this year’s harvest and start to prepare their fields for next year’s crops, the Illinois Department of Agriculture and Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association (IFCA) are urging caution when applying anhydrous ammonia fertilizer.

Anhydrous ammonia provides nitrogen, an essential nutrient for crop growth, to soil and is applied in the spring and fall.  But, because it is stored and handled under high pressure, the fertilizer also is potentially hazardous.  To remind farmers and agrichemical dealers of the proper safety procedures to follow when applying ammonia, the department and IFCA have developed a full-color brochure that highlights common transportation and application mistakes.  Accidents that occurred in the spring of 2010 are featured in detail, followed by recommendations that may have prevented them.      

“Safety and stewardship are equally important when it comes to anhydrous ammonia application,” IFCA President Jean Payne said.  “This is a product that is always under scrutiny, and thus everyone involved in the storage, transportation, and application of ammonia is responsible for ensuring the safe and proper use of this important plant nutrient.” 

“Late and wet harvests the past two years left little time for farmers to replenish the nutrients in their fields before spring,” Agriculture Director Tom Jennings added.  “With the prospect of an early harvest this year, they understandably may be anxious to get started on preparations for next year.  However, it’s still a bit premature to start applying ammonia.”

According to the University of Illinois Agronomy Handbook, whose guidelines are recommended, applications of ammonia should not begin before the second week of October in northern Illinois and before the third week of October in central Illinois.  Fall-applied nitrogen for corn is discouraged altogether in southern Illinois south of Route 16. 

Soil temperatures should drop to 50 degrees before fall nitrogen is considered.  Daily, four-inch, soil temperatures are available online at  The site also shows soil temperature trends. 

The IFCA will distribute the safety brochures at its fall Anhydrous Ammonia Safety Schools.  It also will make copies available to fertilizer dealers in the state so they can share them with their farmer customers and post the safety brochure on its website along with a 12-minute safety video.