The ammonium nitrate debate is getting more interesting. The past two weeks, CropLife magazine has covered the developments at the West Fertilizer Co. plant in West, TX. Needless to say, the response has been overwhelming. Hundreds of readers have passed along these items to their friends and co-workers while dozens more have sent their comments on this tragedy directly to us.
As I stated last week, some e-mails have even called for agriculture to simply stop using ammonium nitrate as a crop nutrient to avoid any such incidents in the future. And a small majority seems to agree with this opinion. In our online poll accompanying last week’s column, 43% of respondents thought the time had come for ammonium nitrate to disappear from agricultural use. Another 40% disagreed with this view, while the remaining 17% believed it was too soon to make this decision or were undecided.
Of course, this begs a simple question in return – if agriculture drops ammonium nitrate as a crop nutrient choice, what will replace it? Mark Egan of Black Prairie Agriculture wrote that there is no good alternative.
“Urea is not a great option because of volatilization concerns. Stabilized urea is no bargain. Ammonium sulfate is okay, but that much sulfur is not needed, so it becomes an expensive source. Liquid nitrogen is also problematic in these low input systems because its half urea and one has to be equipped to apply it himself or hope a custom applicator will do his farm in a timely manner,” wrote Egan. “I can say that West’s pain is deeply felt here, yet I am willing to say that ammonium nitrate is an important input that has no good alternative and should not be banned.”
Given these facts, it will be interesting to see what the industry decides to do next when it comes to the ammonium nitrate debate.