Fertiliser is an essential component of farming, regardless of the size or composition of your farm. There are many types of fertiliser and what type any individual farmer uses on their farm depends on what they produce, how much they produce, who they’re producing for, and what their goals are. What’s most important is that a farmer has an ample supply of fertiliser ready and available to use when they need it.
Fertiliser should be stored in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area and away from other chemicals or flammable materials. When appropriate, fertiliser can be stored in its original packaging and is preferably separated by pallets to keep large drums and bags off the floor. Easy access to fertiliser stores is important for rotating supplies and quick deployment.
Running a farm is a full time job and then some. Working out the logistical and practical requirements to keep things running smoothly means streamlining and simplifying your processes, while preparing for unforeseen circumstances. Let’s discuss how proper fertiliser storage can make your life easier and reduce risk associated with normal operations.
How Should Fertiliser be Stored?
Fertiliser can be a volatile substance for multiple reasons. Depending on the composition of your fertiliser, it could be combustible, emit noxious fumes, seep into your groundwater, or alter the normal flora in your soil. One of the most concerning characteristics of fertilisers is that they are oxidising agents, meaning they can be flammable or accelerate combustion of other combustible materials, even when little to no oxygen is not present. For this reason, it’s important that your fertiliser is stored in a secure, well ventilated building, ideally built using non-combustible materials.
Fertiliser should be stored in a temperature-regulated, moisture-free, but well-ventilated area and away from other chemicals or flammable materials. If your fertiliser came packaged, it’s usually safe to store it in its packaging, though bags or drums should be organised on pallets for easy access and ample buffers from other materials. This also facilitates using a first in – first out system so supplies don’t sit for excessive periods.
Make sure the floor is clear of any sharp objects that may puncture the surface of the packaging. It can be helpful to further separate each stacked layer with pallets which enhances air flow. Just be careful when stacking high by ensuring there is an allowance on the pallet for slippage since higher stores could fall causing injury or damage.
Avoid storing fertiliser near any other combustible materials such as hay, straw, or fuel and other chemical substances such as urea or pesticides. It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway), but keep your fertiliser away from any naked flames and don’t smoke near the storage area!
Where is the Best Place to Store Fertiliser?
The best place to store your fertiliser is inside a well-ventilated, water-tight room. Fertiliser that gets wet can quickly lose its effectiveness, while moisture can also cause lumps that inhibit spreading capabilities. Whether it’s for a garden, lawn, pastures, or crops, your fertilisers should be stored in their original bags or containers when possible. Also, make sure it is well out of reach of children.
If your fertiliser can only be stored outside, then make sure there is significant space between the containers and the ground, ensuring sufficient airflow. Ideally, a storage area should be a clean environment, clear of any dust, dirt, and moisture. This also improves temperature regulation since your fertiliser should not be exposed to sunlight and should be kept at a temperature between 5 and 30 degrees C.
Additionally, never store your fertiliser near a well or in a well house, even if it’s abandoned. The moisture from the ground will likely affect the longevity of your stock and any leakage from the fertiliser has the potential to contaminate groundwater.
How Long Can I Store Fertiliser?
Depending on the type of fertiliser you use, it can last for several years if stored correctly. Liquid fertilisers can last up to 10 years, while granular fertilisers generally have no expiration date. When you follow best practices for fertiliser storage, you’ll improve its longevity to ensure you have an ample supply when you need it without having to manage wastage.
How do you store an open bag of fertiliser?
If you have open bags of fertiliser, it’s equally important to store them correctly so they’ll continue to be effective when you need to use them again. Granular fertilisers absorb moisture in the air which can cause them to cake up like cement. Any uncontrolled exposure of your fertiliser increases the risk that it can be contaminated, reducing its effectiveness.
Ideally, open or exposed fertiliser should be kept in the original packaging and then placed inside large storage containers with a tight sealing lid. Keep it in the original container whenever possible so you know what the product is. If you’re able to seal the bag again and store it in a protected location where it will remain dry, this will also suffice.
Is fertiliser still good after getting wet?
When fertiliser comes in contact with moisture such as rain or humidity, the components start to degrade. Therefore, your fertiliser will lose some of its efficacy. This applies to all types of fertiliser whether dry or liquid. This is why appropriate ventilation, storage off the ground, and storage in sealed containers is beneficial.
How do you handle fertiliser safely?
Fertiliser is generally safe and poses few risks when stored properly. However, there are still good practices to follow when it comes time to put your fertiliser to use.
Wear gloves when handling any fertiliser since it contains nitrogen that can cause chemical burns to your skin. In addition, wearing eye protection is always a good idea when working outside with machinery or chemicals. Furthermore, be sure to clean up excess fertiliser that may have spilled where it doesn’t belong.
What do I do with old fertiliser?
Unless your fertiliser is made from organic ingredients, it can contain harmful chemical compounds which, in large quantities, are not safe to dispose of in the rubbish dump. When not disposed of properly, these chemicals, which include high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus, are exposed to the elements and may seep into the ground and waterways which can be extremely harmful to the environment.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance to dispose of your old fertiliser responsibly in any of the following ways:
- Find other farmers or local industries that might have a use for it.
- Check your local waste management services about hazardous waste pick up days.
- Water your old fertiliser down and use it sparingly where appropriate.
- If your only option is to dump it, alert the staff at the rubbish tip that fertiliser is present.*
*When disposing of your fertiliser, make sure it is tightly sealed and wrapped up with tape, old newspaper or heavy duty plastic bags to avoid contamination.
What not to do with your old fertiliser:
- DO NOT dump it on pasture or crops, as this can cause chemical burns to plants and kill off beneficial microbes.
- NEVER pour fertiliser down the drain or sewer as this contaminates water systems.
- DO NOT put it directly into the trash.
- Keep your children and pets away from fertiliser at all times.
- DO NOT mix any different types of fertilisers as this may cause volatile chemical reactions that could potentially cause property damage.