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November 2013 Archive for Inputs Insights

RSS By: Davis Michaelsen, Pro Farmer

Inputs Monitor Editor Davis Michaelsen adds his perspective into the happenings of the inputs markets.

Turkey Fertilizer

Nov 27, 2013

Here's something to talk about at the Thanksgiving table... the nutritive qualities of turkey manure. Turkey production in the United states spiked in the early 1990's and has fallen slightly since then. In 2012, USDA/NRS reports 250 million head of turkeys were raised in the U.S.tkyprd

Most are grown in Minnesota and North Carolina but 13 states all contribute to national production. The nutrients in turkey manure are derived from their food source and the richest excrement comes from growerhouse litter at the end of a growing season.

The table below breaks down the nutrient values for N, P & K. Turns out, turkey manure stacks up pretty well against other poultry poo. The values listed in the table come from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service (NCCES) in pounds of nutrient per ton of material.

 
Total N lbs/ton
Ammonium NH4 +/- N lbs/ton
Phosphorus lbs/ton
Potassium lbs/ton
Turkey growerhouse litter
57
16
72
40
Fresh Turkey manure (no litter)
27
8
25
12
Duck growerhouse litter
19
3
17
14
Fresh Duck manure (no litter)
28
5
23
17
Chicken growerhouse litter
72
11
78
46
Fresh Chicken manure (no litter)
26
10
17
11

 

Chicken growerhouse litter outshines other manures for nutrient quality, but turkey growerhouseyou do know im not a turkey dont you happy thanksgiving to all our flickr friends l litter is a close second. High concentrations of NH4 mean N loss can be mitigated by incorporating the litter into the soil at application.

"Except for nitrogen, the availability of most nutrients in poultry manures is fairly consistent. Nitrogen can occur in several forms, each of which can be lost when subjected to different management or environmental conditions.

Nitrogen in poultry wastes comes from uric acid, ammonia salts, and organic (fecal) matter. The predominant form is uric acid, which readily transforms to ammonia (NH3), a gaseous form of nitrogen that can evaporate if not mixed into the soil. When it is thoroughly mixed, the ammonia changes to ammonium (NH4+), which can be temporarily held on clay particles and organic matter. Thus, soil mixing can reduce nitrogen losses and increase the amount available to plants," according to NCCES.

Fifty-seven pounds of nitrogen per ton is a fair amount for an organic source, but consider a single ton of anhydrous ammonia contains 1,700 lbs of actual nitrogen. Phosphorus and potassium levels are attractive in turkey manure as well, but as with nitrogen, fall well behind the concentrations offered by commercial P&K.

a small tribute to the turkey lAll poultry manure relays a decent smattering of micronutrients as well including calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, zinc and others.

Turkey manure is among the better sources of nutrient from poultry manure, but the levels of NPK are not high enough to support crop growth on their own. However, as a supplemental garden fertilizer, incorporation in the fall or two weeks out from planting would add a welcome shot of all three nutrients that one could supplement as needed through the life of the garden. If timed correctly, applications to row crop plots could also give a boost to early plant growth, but even at the top end of the scale at 57 lbsN/ton, commercial applications would have to follow.

They are delicious, they make us sleepy and their manure is nutrient rich. Though chicken manure outruns the nitrogen content of turkey litter, for one day each year, Thanksgiving belongs to the turkeys.

From all of us here at the Monitor, happy holidays and, as always, safety first.


Production graph provided by USDA/NASS

Chicken photo credit: Puzzler4879 / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Turkey photo credit: Douglas Brown / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

USDA/ERS's Take on Nutrient Reduction

Nov 22, 2013

This week marked the 43rd annual North Central Extension-Industry Soil Fertility Conference and most of the research presented revolved around nitrogen and nutrient reduction. This was a tricky year for reducing the flow of N&P because of last year's drought. A lot of nutrient was left in the dry soil and the heavy spring rains washed fall applications -- and some spring nutrient -- out of the soil and down the creek.

USDA/ERS Weighs in --

The topic of nutrient reduction has thus far been presented at the state level and by the Hypoxia Task force and the EPA. But two speakers from USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) were on hand at the conference and they each talked about nutrient reduction strategies to limit N&P loss from farms. Dan Jaynes from USDA/ERS spoke of a threefold approach to nutrient reduction. Avoid, Control and Trap. Jaynes noted that there are a number of external factors in nutrient runoff including precipitation, acreage to corn, population/food demand, drainage... the list goes on. These are things that contribute to increased nitrogen use which are beyond the control of individual growers.

To combat the external factors, Jaynes suggested three areas for consideration.

Avoid -- This phase looks to improve N management with the use of cover crops, urease inhibitors and a fresh look at the good 'ol 4R's. The most useful part here is the idea that nitrogen applications could be cut on the farm if a greater focus was placed on nitrogen synchronization. This would have growers applying nitrogen to the crop at various points throughout the life of the plant. We already have seen a shift in that direction and Jaynes suggested that with strategically timed applications throughout the lifecycle of the crop, nitrogen efficiency would improve, and amounts of N&P runoff would fall.

Control -- This is drainage water management, but Jaynes highlighted the fact that this would have no impact on yield and would offer little motivation for farmers to change practices.

Trap -- This includes riparian buffers, in-field bio-reactors and increased acreage to wetlands. De-nitrification bio-reactors have been shown in studies to have reduced N&P egress by 65% over the last eight years. The trouble is the addition of bio-reactors would add expense to the operation and specialized equipment in far flung fields, and would add little if any economic benefit.

Jaynes concluded his presentation with an ominous suggestion of three things that growers can do today.

1) Reduce nitrogen applications by 20%.

2) Plant cover crops to salvage N in the off-season.

3) Eliminate fall N applications.

To the good, USDA/ERS expects nutrient reduction to take a number of years before a difference will be noticeable. This gives growers some time to sort through all the suggestions of new management practices against practices already in place. To encourage adoption, projects in the past have offered incentives to participating growers, but when those incentives run out, participation falters.

While the suggestion of eliminating fall N altogether may run contrary to current practices, it is widely known that significant loss occurs during the winter and in some cases, less than half of fall applied nutrient is still there when the spring crop is planted. Much more is known about the life-cycle of crops given the amount of hybrid variability available to growers than in years past and knowing how to place nitrogen when and where uptake is taking place will make a big dent in nutrient runoff, and may lower nitrogen bills.

As the conference went on, the clear theme was increased N utilization, and these researchers recognize that growers will need to see a little bang for their buck before stepping out and trying a new system. In the months ahead look for buzzwords like nitrogen synchronization, and increased accountability when it comes to nutrient reduction.

Still voluntary --

The EPA and USDA/ERS recognize that they need farmers on board with whatever methods they may come up with regarding nutrient reduction, and that works in our favor. The speakers had an appreciation that best management practices are in place for a reason and that growers may be reluctant to risk a crop on a new approach. But if these management practices lead to gains for producers, or even just don't cost anything, adoption rates will be higher.

Dan Schaefer, Director of Nutrient Stewardship for the Illinois CBMP suggested growers, "Manage nitrogen as a system, not as an application."

Split nitrogen applications starting with pre-plant UAN in the spring after winter cover crops would increase synchronization between nitrogen uptake and N applications. According to research presented this week, scattering nitrogen applications across the growing season will help minimize risk of loss to external factors, maintain current yields and send less N&P down the river at no extra cost to growers -- if managed carefully.

This represents a shift for some, but as environmental factors combine with the pursuit of high yielding crops, farmers are given the chance to try these things out voluntarily, and while no-one is currently talking about regulations on the farm, many believe that day will come if nutrient reduction does not become a priority in crop management.


 

Natural Gas Fracks the Fate of Nations

Nov 15, 2013

Nitrogen fertilizer production is fueled by natural gas, but as farmers pull the pin on another growing season, natural gas comes into focus as the fuel for home heat, both here at home and around the globe. The shale boom here in the United States has us all feeling pretty good about our natural gas position in the world, and as inventories in the States rise, the public is left to ponder what to do with all of this natural gas.

9287570939 2bc2050080American producers still burn off nearly as much natgas infield as they collect -- an enviable position indeed as other world superpowers are faced with natural gas shortages and disputes over national loyalties. Europe's position is tenuous at best as the number one transit nation for Russian natural gas to the E.U. has fallen out of favor with Moscow, and Norwegian supplies lag under maintenance constraints.

At the same time, as China looks to decrease reliance on coal as a means to cleaning the air, natural gas demand has forced the temporary shutter of many industrial complexes, including some urea production.

The glaring difference between Chinese and Russian natural gas and that of the United States is the free market. Up until recently, Chinese natural gas production was limited to state entities. Similarly, Russian natgas drillers are part of state owned companies. Private enterprise has allowed fracking to flourish in the U.S. leading to an abundance of available natural gas.

Former Soviet Union -- major russian gas pipelines to europe l

Russia is holding its breath as Ukraine is just one week out from possibly signing an association agreement with the European Union, much to the dismay of Moscow. But questions loom as to whether Ukraine will muster the social and economic reforms outlined as prerequisites for Ukraine's entry into the agreement. The scuttlebutt revolves mostly around jailed former Prime Minister Tymoshenko who found herself in hot water over a natural gas deal with Russia.

Russia cut natural gas sales to Ukraine on Monday, but Ukraine claims it has enough natgas in storage to weather the coming winter, and preemptively ended purchases of Russian gas the prior Friday. But without natural gas flowing through that pipeline, which also services parts of the E.U., flows will falter, leaving Europe out in the cold. The last time Russia waged a gas war on Ukraine, central and southeastern Europe -- including Italy and Poland -- were without natural gas for three weeks of the bitter European winter.

gazprom 1 lMoscow claims Ukraine did not pay their August 2013 natural gas bill in full and still owes state-owned Gazprom $1.3 billion. Meanwhile, behind Russia, most of Europe relys on natural gas from Norway, but production constraints are ahead in Norway to refurbish what reports call 'aging fields'.

If Ukraine actually can make it through winter without Russian natural gas, Russia will have to find an outlet for natural gas to maintain export revenues from natural gas tenders. But if supply constraints resulting from the FSU tiff halt pipeline flows through Ukraine to Europe, an association agreement may be more geared toward securing natural gas tenders as it is political reform in Ukraine.

China --

Last year at this time, China was using natural gas for roughly 4% of its annual energy supply. But choking smog belched by coal fired electricity has the Chinese eyeing natural gas as a clean burning alternative. Even at 4% utilization, Chinese natgas demand is so high that at that level, they rank as the third largest natgas consumer in the world behind the U.S.A. and Russia.

Until recently, non-state owned enterprises were not allowed to operate within China's borders, but renewed demand has since inspired the Chinese to rethink that policy. It is estimated that China sits atop shale reserves several times larger than those in the U.S., and as geologists study the potential of those shale deposits, Chinese inventories shrink, and demand continues to build.great wall of china smog l

Since 1997 rumors have been batted about that Russia's Gazprom would build a pipeline system to China which would transit crude oil and natural gas. But the two quickly came to a standoff over the price, and while the current shortage has renewed speculation around the project, the U.S. may step in as a supplier of both LNG and technical expertise to the Chinese.

Chinese urea production played a hand in driving nutrient prices lower over the past 18 months. Aggressive oversupply, additions to production capacity and an annual tariff reduction to encourage sendouts gave the appearance that urea was simply falling out of the sky in China. But the aggressive production posture on the part of the fertilizer sector as well as other industry has supplies running short, and industrial use, including fertilizer manufacture has been trimmed dramatically until natgas supplies can be secured.

It may well be the ship has sailed for Gazprom's Chinese pipeline and offtake deal as U.S. LNG exporters are anxious to tender product. It is unclear how increased LNG exports to China would impact natgas pricing here in the United States, but China has always been a 'lowballer' when it comes to international trade, and the fact that they have balked at the Russian price suggests U.S. LNG prices would be held in check by tenders to China.

But as the smog builds in the major metropolitan areas of China, the imperative to source reliable, cost effective natural gas supplies will increase and until hydraulic fracturing can gain some traction on the production landscape, China will have to choose between smog and fair market natgas pricing.

Perspective --

Russia is having a heckuva time. Ukraine has enough in storage to get them by for awhile and added fuel to the fire by waving-off natural gas purchases from Russia before Moscow had a chance to cancel sendouts. With natgas production in the U.S. running at the pace of free enterprise, the staredown that has lasted since 1997 between Russia and China may eventually end with LNG tenders from the United States.

If Russia cannot scare Ukraine away from the E.U. association agreement with natgas curtailments and they cannot -- or will not -- agree to China's offered price, E.U. and Chinese demand could be serviced exclusively by U.S. supplies until China learns to frack and Norway rebuilds aging infrastructure.

If Russia wants to use natgas to settle scores, U.S. natural gas from private, market driven sources would be more than happy to offer a consistent, drama-free supply to all takers.


Flare photo credit: Tim Evanson / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Map credit: Samuel Bailey (sam.bailus@gmail.com) / Foter.com / CC BY

Gazprom photo credit: Thawt Hawthje / Foter.com / CC BY

Great Wall photo credit: ConanTheLibrarian / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

 

 

Propane's Progress: A Short History

Nov 08, 2013

Propane is the cleanest burning of all fossil fuels and is the result of a complicated chemical process which separates propane gas from a complex mixture of petrochemicals. It is believed propane-like substances have been used by man for 5,000 years, starting when Mesopotamian masonry workers and jewelers used a form of propane tar as an adhesive.

The introduction of propane as an energy source in the United States is thanks to Dr. Walter Snelling who, in 1910, discovered that volatile fumes from petroleum could be captured, processed and used to create energy. Early uses included simple lighting, metal cutting and cooking. 1910ford t l

Snelling was an explosive expert and chemist by trade working for the U.S. Bureau of Mines when he was asked to look into vapors vented from the gasoline tank on an old Model T. Snelling bottled some of the gasoline from the Ford's tank and corked the lid. Off to the laboratory he went to get to the bottom of the vapors. As Snelling bumped down the mining road, pressure built up in the bottle until the cork popped off the top. He replaced the lid, more tightly this time, but again, the cork popped off. Once again, Snelling patted the cork securely into place and once again, vapors in the bottle forced the cork off, and the propane industry was born.

Work began immediately on controlling and packaging these vapors and in 1913, Snelling sold the patent on propane to Frank Phillips, founder of Philips Petroleum for a sum of $50,000. Over the course of the next fifteen years, U.S. propane consumption would grow to 10 million gallons annually. Propane got its industrial start as a fuel for cutting torches in Pennsylvania but would soon become a household staple.

tappanstoveBy 1927, the Tappan Stove Company was producing gas ranges and stoves and in the following year, the first bobtail delivery truck rolled off the production line. Soon after, propane refrigerators were introduced. All of the cooking appliances and hot water in the Olympic Village at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics was fueled by propane. But there was a problem.

Propane gas allowed to build up in small, enclosed spaces can easily explode with the smallest ignition source. Propane then was in its more natural form -- odorless, colorless and tasteless. As the fuel gained popularity in American homes and industry, propane explosions became more frequent. This led to the 1933 introduction of an artificial odorant which alerted consumers when leaks or a buildup of the gas threatened safety.navytorch

Sales reached 1 billion gallons at the close of World War II with increased industrial development. By that time, 62% of American homes cooked on either natural gas or propane ranges. Water heater sales took off like wildfire along with gas powered clothes dryers. 1947 saw the first propane tanker launched. With a hauling capacity of 1.4 million gallons, the SS Natalie Warren undertook her first ocean voyage with a propane cargo.

Today, the Propane Education and Research Council reports at least 900,000 farms and agricultural operations rely on propane to dry grain, heat homes and barns and to power irrigation pumps. Studies are now underway to research orchard heaters that can protect valuable fruit crops from frost. Weed and insect control go hand-in-hand and propane is in research trials as an economical pesticide.

The National Propane Association established its first office in Washington D.C. in 1973 when the Arab oil embargo inspired propane price controls which were eliminated by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. The 1990 Clean Air Act listed propane as an approved alternative fuel and in the present day, 8.1 million American households utilize propane in some way.

3937094303 85dd99d84fThis year, an exceptionally wet harvest has excited demand to the point where delivery drivers are unable to keep up. This prompted several states to enact Hours of Service Waivers to keep drivers on the road.

From a vaporous Model-T on an old mining road just after the turn of the 20th century to 15 billion gallons of annual consumption 100 years later, propane has become a staple fossil fuel. With the advent of hydraulic fracturing, more propane will become available, but at the moment, more gas is burned off in remote oil fields than is collected due to the expense of pipng the gas to processing facilities. That is expected to change as in-field technologies may soon allow frackers to collect and separate propane and other petrochemicals outside of a refinery.2629314773 5730a2a540

The global interest in propane gas is at an all time high and as engine technology and fueling infrastructure answers demand for clean burning fuels, CNG and LNG exports from shale reserves hold the promise of energy independence for the United States. Throughout its history, versatility and efficiency have marked propane's progress and with a shale revolution underway, the future of propane is bright. With a single, dusty pop of a cork on a bottle of gasoline in 1910, life in America was improved by such gadgets as water heaters, propane ranges, grain dryers and refrigeration, all thanks to clean burning propane.


Model-T photo credit: Harry Shipler / Foter.com / Public domain

Tanks photo credit: aaron.knox / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Storage tanks photo credit: Bob Jagendorf / Foter.com / CC BY

Tappan stove photo credit: artnoose / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

31st Naval Construction Batt. photo credit: David C. Foster / Foter.com / CC BY-ND

 

 

Ukraine Juggles Progressive Reforms and Soviet Pride

Nov 01, 2013

Jailed Ukraine former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko lies at a pivotal intersection of Soviet pride and E.U. progressivism. Tymoshenko is currently serving a 7-year jail term for abuse of power, a charge the E.U. would like to see overturned. The implications for the future of the Former Soviet Union and the European Union run deep. At the center, jailed former Ukraine Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, the peoples' princess.stay there l

It all started with natural gas from Russia. Natural gas has been used as a weapon by Russia's Gazprom. In the winters of 2006 and 2009, Gazprom stopped natgas sendouts to Ukraine and parts of Europe. In an effort to keep thermostats running, Tymoshenko penned a 10-year deal with Gazprom that current Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich says was beyond her authority. But a secured gas contract at an unacceptable price only begins to tell the tale.

Beneath the offtake agreement is a peoples movement which cast Tymoshenko as the symbol of a western awakening in Ukraine dubbed the Orange Revolution. The Orange Revolution called for reforms similar to those which the E.U. now echoes, as Ukraine is groomed for E.U. membership.

At the same time, Russia is pressuring Ukraine to join a customs block of its own placing Ukraine in a delicate position. The western leaning Ukrainian people look to the European Union as the way forward, with Tymoshenko as their champion while President Yanukovich is less willing to divorce from the Soviet bloc.

Eastern Partnership Summit --

The third Eastern Partnership Summit will gather the highest representatives of 28 E.U. member states and the 6 Eastern European partner nations which include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. These meetings take place every two years and are intended to bring progress to light and to plan for the coming two years.

yulia tymoschenko lOfficials will also report on Ukraine's progress toward E.U. compliance as a condition of joining the E.U. First on the list is Tymoshenko. European Union authorities have been very vocal about Tymoshenko's detention and many believe her sentence is intended to keep her out of the public eye, and off ballots into the future. But as is often the case with martyrs, Tymoshenko's popularity, and her ideals with it, have grown since her detention in 2011.

Now authorities are calling for her conditional release to a German hospital for spinal problems she is having. But Yanukovich is reluctant to let her go, perhaps recalling Belarus' seemingly innocent invitation to Uralkali CEO Baumgertner to visit Minsk where he has since been detained and questioned.

As the old-school Soviet Ukraine President Yanukovich surveys the situation, he has to wonder if Tymoshenko would ever come back from a mission of mercy to Germany, and he is probably right to. The last thing Yanukovich needs now is a revived Orange Revolution, inspired by an exiled ex-Prime Minister who certainly would have no problem finding places to hide in Germany -- old scores and whatnot.

Yanukovich's dillema --

Meanwhile, the undercurrents of FSU dissension are not lost on Moscow. Russia is working on its own Customs Union with sympathetic nations in the region -- a union that would be in competition with the European Union in matters including trade.

Ukraine is pulled between the two. President Yanukovich cannot be seen as cow-towing to the people's movement in Russia's eyes, and would lose face by releasing Tymoshenko. Siding with the European Union would be something of a slap in the face to Russia, which provides nearly all of Ukraine's natural gas, and threatens to cut supplies at crucial times.

The other side of the coin is a new societal frontier with the European Union steering reforms in Ukraine -- reforms that start with an end to 'selective justice'. The citizens are largely in favor of joining the European Union and a failure to answer these progressive ideals could lead to another Orange Revolt in Ukraine, and political instability in one of the world's most dedicated nitrogen producers. Another natural gas war there would inflate European, South American and Asian nitrogen prices, and could have the same impact here in the U.S.ukrainian homes l

The Summit is to be held November 28 & 29 in Lithuania and Ukraine will be called to account for the reforms the E.U. has forwarded as a condition of Ukraine's membership. If Tymoshenko is not freed by then, the E.U. will likely block Ukraine's entrance into the E.U., leaving Ukraine with no choice but to make nice with Russia to save their winter natgas supplies, and keep the heat turned on.

But if Tymoshenko is exonerated for being too big for her britches, Ukrainian President Yanukovich may be seen by FSU hard-liners as an E.U. pariah, dismissing himself and his nation from the good graces of Moscow.


Juggler photo credit: puthoOr photOgraphy / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Tymoshenko photo credit: Deirdre Boyer / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Ukranian homes photo credit: Stuck in Customs / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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