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Producers should be mindful when applying anhydrous

Due to its potential danger, producers should take extra precaution when applying anhydrous to their fields.

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When used safely, anhydrous is of minimal concern for producers. However, if the substance is used in an unsafe manner, it can lead to very dangerous outcomes. Dustin Monke / Forum News Service

As the region heads into planting season, producers should be mindful of anhydrous ammonia safety.

“When anhydrous is handled safely, it is fine. But, the problem is that if it is not handled safely, it can be very dangerous,” said John Nowatzki, agricultural machine systems specialist for North Dakota State University.

Anhydrous ammonia is a widely-used source of nitrogen fertilizer. It tends to be more concentrated and more economical than other nitrogen sources.

Anhydrous will burn the skin very quickly if it comes into contact with it. According to Nowatzki, anhydrous is one hydrogen molecule short. Therefore, if a producer were to get anhydrous on their skin, the anhydrous finds the missing hydrogen atom, leading to the farmer getting burned.

“If you get anhydrous on yourself, it leads to a burn very quickly. That’s the real danger. It is important to keep it off your body,” Nowatzki said.

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If a producer’s skin were to come in contact with anhydrous, they should attempt to wash the substance off them as soon as possible. Nowatzki encourages farmers to make sure they have five gallons of water on their tanks at all times.

“Farmers should be checking every time to make sure they actually have five gallons of water in case they would need to flush their skin with water,” Nowatzki said.

It is also important that products do not inhale anhydrous either, as the substance will take the hydrogen out of their lungs, leaving it hard or nearly impossible to breathe.

However, there are some safety precautions producers can utilize to ensure that they remain safe while applying anhydrous to their fields.

“The first thing to keep in mind is to always wear protective equipment when you’re handling anhydrous,” Nowatzki said.

Some safety equipment that should be worn when handling anhydrous are gloves as well as protective goggles. Nowatzki also cautions producers to watch for leaks.

“Get up wind. If the leak has happened in an area where there are people around, you should make sure that you notify the other people. The easiest and fastest way to notify those people is normally by calling 911,” Nowatzki said.

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As for transportation, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture advises producers to not drive over 30 miles per hour when hauling anhydrous. In addition, they recommend that farmers display a slow moving vehicle sign when driving with the anhydrous.

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