In the spring, farmers spray their cornfields with anhydrous ammonia before planting. In the last few years, I seem to hear more and more people and groups wanting to end this practice. I understand why. Anhydrous ammonia is dangerous to apply. It will burn human tissue, and inhaling it can be fatal. Despite the dangers of handling it, people will steal it from the tanks sitting in fields to make meth. then there are the environmental concerns. The ammonia can leach into the waterways and pollute the ground water system. It has been blamed for the loss of biodiversity in areas where it is used. So why do farmers continue to use something that is so dangerous and harmful?
4th of July sunset over the cornfield
When we were cleaning the field and preparing it to be planted this spring, there was a big burn pile that was cleaned up after anhydrous had been sprayed but before the corn was planted.
This is field corn.
This is field corn on anhydrous ammonia.
Any questions? Here it is again.
Plain ground in front; fertilized ground in the back.
The old saying “knee high by the 4th of July” was an old guide to gauge the progress of corn. Today, if you’ve ever seen an Iowa cornfield, that seems silly. The use of anhydrous ammonia will not end until there is less of a demand for corn products: corn-fed beef, corn chips, corn Chex. How many products have “high fructose corn syrup” as an ingredient? How many people have ever put ethanol in their cars? Right or wrong, anhydrous ammonia isn’t going away, and it is fueled by people’s desire for the many products that come from corn.