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Agronomist Guy Swanson’s family farm south of Spokane, Wash., has been completely no-till since 1973 and has not been plowed since 1968. Swanson believes those farmers who want to get the most from their land should use anhydrous ammonia to decrease input costs and increase yields. He also thinks other no-tillers could gain from a fuller understanding of the benefits of anhydrous.
“National Public Radio stated recently that anhydrous ammonia is the most significant development in the last 200 years,” Swanson says. “It’s rated above manned flight, nuclear fission, genetically modified organisms, electrification, telephones and penicillin.”
About 5 million tons, or $2 billion worth, of anhydrous ammonia is directly applied in the country each year, making it the largest segment of the nitrogen market, Swanson says. It is also the lowest-cost nitrogen source in the U.S., he says, noting that fertilizer dealers have a 15 percent margin on anhydrous ammonia compared to a 25 percent margin on the more expensive 28 and 32 percent process solutions.
The use of directly applied anhydrous ammonia is expected to increase in the U.S. over the next 20 years due to the environmental problems of liquid nitrate-based nitrogen, he says. Although directly applied anhydrous ammonia must be sealed to reduce losses to the atmosphere, it is more soil-stable than nitrate-based nitrogen because it is placed in the root zone, he says, so surface residue tie-up of nitrogen is avoided and losses due to surface water run-off are reduced.
Swanson believes anhydrous…