Storing fertilizer on the farm may ensure availability whenever it’s needed most, but it does come with a few challenges. All tanks, silos, covered pads, and other storage units used for fertilizer storage, address a few of these challenges but are susceptible to others. Plan a comprehensive approach to safe and affordable fertilizer storage by addressing the challenges one by one.
Short vs Long-term Storage for Fertilizer
Short-term fertilizer storage faces most of these challenges, but on a far smaller scale. Open totes and other less protective storage devices are only appropriate for short-term use. For long-term storage, solid containers like plastic or metals are necessary. Yet, rigid containers are often inappropriate for storing organic fertilizers that are still producing methane and other gases. Venting or flexible covers may be necessary for long-term storage of manure slurries and similar organic fertilizers.
Many chemical fertilizers break down into less valuable forms when exposed to light; even for a few hours at a time. Keeping iron fertilizers, in particular, away from sunlight is important to keep it in a form that plants can absorb readily through their roots. Sun exposure for more than brief periods makes the fertilizer far less valuable. Opaque storage tanks or containers are essential for easily degraded chemical fertilizers and organic materials that might react to UV exposure. Granular fertilizer can heat up and even combust when exposed to UV rays, so keep fertilizers away from light for safety.
Far more fertilizers are sensitive to high temperatures than sun exposure. Some fertilizers shift forms or lose the desired value when exposed to temperatures above 80 degrees F for more than a few hours at a time. At extreme temperatures of 100 degrees F or more, combustion risks arise from many urea and ammonia-based, nitrogen fertilizers. There’s no need for air conditioning in most fertilizer storage areas, but ventilation can help control both heat and moisture that leads to fertilizer degradation and loss.
Maintaining Granule Size
Granule fertilizer is designed to protect the nutrients contained within, often with a coating that keeps air and moisture from reaching the active materials. When the granule breaks into smaller pieces, it’s prone to losing its value as a fertilizer. Other compounds may form that add too much sodium or heavy metals to the soil as well. Granules can break down due to vibration and movement, resulting in degradation that starts as soon as the fertilizer is stored.
Other Degradation Factors
As mentioned above, moisture is another major factor in fertilizer degradation and loss. Since each pound of fertilizer has a concrete cost for the farmer, minimizing loss is essential for maintaining annual spending. Some sensitive fertilizer mixtures may also need more delicate temperature controls or limited outside air exposure to stay stable and offering maximum nutrient values.
Mixing, Rinsing, and Clean Up
Most farmers can’t simply order a single fertilizer, or even a small number of products, and expect good results from their crops. This means that a dozen or more different nutrients and chemicals may be mixed and blended on the farm for custom application. After the tanks are emptied again, they’re usually rinsed and cleaned, generating contaminated, rinsate water. All of these challenges are easily handled with the right liners from BTL Liners.
Don’t let the challenges of storing fertilizer on site, in bulk containers, steer you away from the practice. With the right containers and some secondary containment methods, you’ll be able to store anything you need without expensive protective equipment or risks of environmental damage. Check out our selection of chemical resistant and fertilizer compatible liners here at BTL Liners to find the right materials for your containment projects.