Advertisement

Archive for Thursday, April 27, 1995

FARMERS BEMOAN FERTILIZER REGULATIONS

April 27, 1995

Advertisement

The agriculture community may have to pay for some of the fallout from the bombing in Oklahoma City.

A Kansas agriculture expert hopes regulators will examine the consequences before changing standards for ammonium nitrate, a material used in the deadly Oklahoma City bombing -- and on farm fields.

``There's really just not anything else that works as well, especially in the no-till and low-till situations,'' Ray Lamond, a soil fertility expert at Kansas State University, said of the chemical.

Meanwhile, Dick Lind, plant manager at Farmland Industries, which is just east of Lawrence on Kansas Highway 10, said the fertilizer plant has not made ammonium nitrate for three years.

The local Farmland plant manufacturers anhydrous ammonia and a liquid urea ammonium nitrate, neither of which are explosive, Lind said.

Kansas farmers use tons of fertilizer with ammonium nitrate, which is popular as a garden fertilizer as well, to add nitrogen to the soil.

Suggestions to regulate the chemical include restricting sales by licensing and fingerprinting buyers, or mixing it with lime to make it less practical as an explosive, options already implemented by nations in other parts of the world.

``I suppose this will mean a dozen more federal regulations making it more difficult and expensive for farmers who have never broken a law in their lives to buy something they need to make a living,'' one Flint Hills rancher said after the April 19 bombing that killed or injured hundreds.

The lime mix idea would make ammonium nitrate so impractical it virtually would disappear from the Kansas market, seriously hurting the state's agriculture, Lamond said.

Kansas soils, especially the irrigated soils of western Kansas, are neutral or slightly alkaline. Adding lime increases the alkalinity of soil. Adding nitrogen decreases it.

``Essentially, if you mixed lime with ammonium nitrate you'd be forced to buy something you don't need (lime) and add it to soil that is already alkaline,'' Lamond said. ``And you'd have to buy more of the mix to get an equal amount of nitrogen.''

Ammonium nitrate already is expensive as a nitrogen source. It's the least concentrated form of nitrogen farmers can apply to the soil -- 34 percent nitrogen as opposed to the 82 percent content of anhydrous ammonia.

Mixing it with lime would cut the nitrogen concentration more and increase costs for production, transportation and for the end user. It would literally price it out of the market, Lamond said.

No other chemical would work as well, he said.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.