Farmers may want to get a jump on fall fertilizer applications, but officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture says you shouldn’t apply it right now. U-S-D-A district conservationist Paul Miller says applying anhydrous ammonia to fields now would be bad for the environment. He says warmer soil temperatures will break down the anhydrous into a nitrate form that can readily leach out of the soil into the groundwater or surface water. Miller says those nitrates that get into the water are a health concern. He says especially if you’re in an area where they pull water out of surface water for drinking water, it can pose a health risk. Not only does the lost fertilizer pose a health risk, it lets money you’ve spent on fertilizer flow away too. He says once it leaches away, the nitrogen is not available for next year’s crop. He says you’re better off to wait until the soil temperature cools down, or wait to apply the fertilizer until spring. Miller recommends waiting until the soil reaches 50 degrees — which usually happens sometime in November. Miller understands how some might want to get into the field and apply the fertilizer now.He says it may be a time issue as they don’t have time to do it in the spring, and conditions may be wetter in the spring. He says they may have time to do it now, but he encourages farmers to watch the soil temperature. Miller says waiting to apply the fertilizer at the proper time will help you get the most out of your resources and protect the environment.
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