Plants need nutrients in their soil to grow. Some key nutrients that all crops require include:
Ammonia fertilizer aids in delivering the essential nutrient that all crops need: nitrogen, which supports healthy soil and healthy crops. But there are many different types of ammonia-based fertilizers that farmers can apply to their crops. The various delivery methods offer benefits for different crops and different times of the farming season.
Using the best ammonia as fertilizer will ensure that crops get the greatest nutrition based on their needs and that the soil can fully absorb and use the nutrients it is being fed. Learn more about how to use ammonia to deliver nitrogen to crops to improve crop yields and ensure healthy, fertile grounds.
Why Farmers Need Ammonia as Fertilizer
Throughout the lifecycle of a crop, it removes these crucial nutrients from the soil. And some soil naturally has fewer nutrients due to the area and geological makeup. During harvesting, some of the nutrients are also removed from the soil, meaning they need to be replaced to prepare for a strong growing season the following year.
Ammonia has the highest nitrogen content farmers can get in commercial fertilizers. Approximately 80 percent of the earth’s atmosphere is made up of nitrogen. The Haber-Bosch process captures nitrogen and converts it into a usable form for applying to plants. Famers can apply ammonia directly to the soil, which helps the plants convert it into the nutrients they need to grow.
Once farmers place ammonia-based fertilizers into the soil, the pressurized liquid becomes a vapor to replace nitrogen that is naturally occurring before other crops had depleted the soil.
The Types of Ammonia Fertilizers Used in Agriculture
There are several types of ammonia fertilizers that farmers apply to the soil to support crops. Some are in dry solid form while others are liquids. Each has a different use case and supports various crops. Here’s a look at each type of ammonia-based fertilizer and how to use it.
Ammonium Nitrate Fertilizer – 33.5% Nitrogen
For dry solid fertilizers, ammonia nitrate fertilizer has one of the highest percentages of nitrogen content. It is half ammonium and half nitrate, which delivers the nitrogen in different ways to support a good growing season. Most often, this fertilizer is applied in the spring before farmers plant anything. It’s excellent for side-dressing corn and top-dressing small grains and grasses.
One thing to keep in mind about granular fertilizer is that if the croplands are sloped, you could experience serious runoff, leading to nutrition problems for your crops. Sloped lands require liquid nitrogen that is injected into the soil instead of placed on top.
Here are some key things you should know about ammonium nitrate.
- The common use case is for pastures and top-dress
- Dry, solid form
- Contains 33.5 percent nitrogen
- Includes 50 percent ammonia and 50 percent nitrate, which delivers immediate and delayed nitrogen supplies to crops
- Is extremely dense, which helps farmers cover large areas quickly
- Somewhat more challenging to get since it is a controlled product due to its potential use in explosives
Ammonium Sulfate Fertilizer – 20.5% Nitrogen
Nitrogen is not the only chemical needed for crops to thrive and grow. So in areas that require both nitrogen and sulfur, farmers use ammonium sulfate. This dry granular fertilizer delivers nitrogen entirely from ammonia and is excellent for corn crop fall plow-down and spring pre-plant. Here’s how farmers use this fertilizer to support their crops and some key details about this fertilizer type.
- Dry granular
- Made from 24 percent sulfur and 21 percent nitrogen
- With a fairly low nitrogen content compared with other fertilizers, this is not an ideal source of nitrogen unless you need the sulfur contents as well
- Can help bring up the acidity of a farmer’s soil compared to using ammonium nitrate due to the nitrification process
- Requires watering crops in alkaline soils to avoid nitrogen loss
- Much like ammonium nitrate, this is not ideal for sloped crops due to the potential for runoff.
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Anhydrous Ammonia Fertilizer
Anhydrous ammonia is a liquid fertilizer that is under pressure. This is one of the most widely used ammonia-based fertilizers because it contains 82 percent nitrogen content. Farmers apply it both in the spring for the pre-planting season and in the fall after plow-down. However, in cooler weather, anhydrous ammonia does not perform quite as well as it does in warmer weather.
As you might guess from the name, this fertilizer contains no water. It is one of the most readily available forms of nitrogen-based fertilizers and easy for farmers to apply to their soil.
But before using anhydrous ammonia, farmers should pause and review safety precautions. If handled improperly, the fertilizer is very dangerous because it seeks out any source of moisture. This includes eyes, throat and skin. And because the fertilizer has no water content, it quickly dehydrates the body, which is why it is so dangerous if handled improperly.
Adding water to anhydrous ammonia can make it easier to handle. Once it contains water, it does not need the same level of extreme pressure to keep it in liquid form. This is known as aqua ammonia.
Farmers can apply aqua ammonia on the same basis as anhydrous. However, you cannot use aqua ammonia for surface applications like dry granular fertilizers can.
Ammonia-based Fertilizer FAQs for Agriculture
Learn more about how ammonia is used in agriculture from these commonly asked questions and answers.
What Are the 3 Types of Fertilizers?
The three primary nutrients applied to crops using commercial fertilizers include nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK). These nutrients each play an important role in supporting healthy crops, which is why they are the most common fertilizer forms.
What Type of Ammonia Do Farmers Use?
The most widely used source of nitrogen fertilizer is anhydrous ammonia. It is efficient, readily available and easy to apply. Anhydrous means without water, which can make this type of fertilizer dangerous if handled improperly.
Is Ammonia Good for Crops?
Yes, ammonia binds airborne nitrogen and helps make it available in the soil. That’s one reason why ammonia fertilizer for grass is a popular way to keep your lawn attractive so long as you don’t apply it too heavily or too often.
Green Ammonia for Agriculture
While ammonia is an essential part of ensuring strong crop yields and supporting the world’s food supply, the use of fossil fuels in the Haber-Bosch process has led to harmful CO2 emissions. New solutions are helping create a sustainable future for ammonia-based fertilizers.
IAMMTM from AmmPower allows farmers to make ammonia fertilizer on demand completely carbon-free. The units are modular and scalable to meet the needs of various farm sizes and aid in on-site ammonia manufacturing. All it takes is water and a power supply.
Apply now to see if you qualify to receive one of the first units shipping in Q1 2023.