anhydrous ammonia tanks

It was fairly common to see a line at most local co-ops in the spring of 2019 as many farmers were chomping at the bit after a challenging season, hoping to apply the right amount of anhydrous ammonia at the right time. As the 2020 growing season approaches, producers may be sitting in better shape — weather permitting, of course.

“I don’t see it being as hard as it was last spring by far,” said Russell Pleggenkuhle, a precision ag specialist with Farmers Win Co-op, which has locations across northeast Iowa.

Pleggenkuhle said it was a struggle for co-op staff at times during the spring last year, but nothing they could not manage at their locations.

“We had trucking figured out and our management had it worked out ahead of time,” he said. “We only ran out a couple of times.”

The same situation happened for Phillip Rich, agronomy department manager at Graymont Co-op Association in Graymont, Illinois.

Rich said they were only able to get 75% of their anhydrous ammonia on for the 2019 growing season before farmers switched to liquid nitrogen as the conditions called for it. After the 2019 fall, applications are sitting at about 25% complete in his area, and he does not expect much of a challenge if the weather holds up.

“The consensus is at this point, we are looking at if it does get to be a decent March, guys will put it on at that point,” Rich said. “If we get too close to planting time, we’ll switch people to liquid.”

He said they switch to other forms of fertilizer around two to three weeks before planting is expected to begin. With the typical planting dates coming around April 15 for his area of eastern Illinois, he said they try to move farmers to other options at the end of March.

He also noted that ground temperatures need to stay below 50 degrees for anhydrous applications, and freezing was not too much of an issue during last year’s applications.

The recent struggles farmers have been dealing with for these applications have been accelerating, Rich said.

“Some of it was weather related,” Rich said. “If you read articles all over there’s talks of weather change for the next several years that could lead to this. Last year was either too warm going into the later part of October, and in November, guys held off because you want to make sure ground conditions are fit to be putting ammonia on. It could definitely be a challenge here in the next several years.”

However, for 2020, both co-ops are feeling good about what they will be able to provide to their customers.

“It’s been a challenge in 2019 and it doesn’t look like 2020 is going to be much of a difference,” he said. “But if we miss a couple of rains in the spring, we would be fine.”

Pleggenkuhle agreed, saying the fall work that was able to be done this year is going to help.

“We are definitely in better shape this year than last year,” Pleggenkuhle said.