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Thread: Science geek-y question.... ammonia as fertilizer?

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    moonflower's Avatar
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    Science geek-y question.... ammonia as fertilizer?

    (First... side note.... whoa crazy new feature with the search thing for the title! I like it though!)

    Anyway, I'm studying for my microbiology test and I've been working on the nitrogen cycle specifically... one of the practice questions we had talked about using either ammonia (NH3) or nitrate (NO3-) as a fertilizer. Even though both forms are readily accessible to plants, ammonia works out to be better here because it sticks to the soil, being positively charged, while nitrate washes away since it's highly water soluble. (The problem also involved lots of rain, and the crop that was fertilized with nitrate didn't do so well as a result.)

    Now, this is all well and good from a microbiologist's standpoint, but as a horticulturalist I'm cringing about putting straight-up ammonia on plants. I feel like they would kind of fry, even if they weren't super-picky CP's. Am I wrong? Could regular old ammonia that cleans floors actually fertilize plants without killing them? In this problem, does dilution from the rain help? I'm sadly not that educated about fertilizer chemistry and how they work, so any info would be enlightening Now I've got this problem stuck in my head!
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    I wouldn't throw straight up ammonia on your soil, especially undiluted. It will at least change the pH.
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    Organic ferts contain sources of usable nitrogen that break down and enter the soil over time. Inorganic ferts, as you've mentioned, often are more "direct." (though many times it's still slower release than just pure ammonia) While it's surprising that plants can take any ammonia at all (and be HAPPY with it, nonetheless!) my "guess" would be that it's still a pretty tricky balance. It's quite easy to overuse ferts to disastrous end.

    I took a few semesters of hort at my community college while I was in HS, and there's an experience that I think is pertinant to illustrating this point:

    Since the greenhouse/hort operations were pretty extensive, they mixed their substrates in large quantities; perlite, peat, slow-release ferts, etc. One week we noticed that all of the recently potted plants were dropping like flies, and with the plant-sale coming up, people were scrambling to find the reason. My teacher ended up testing the electrical conductivity of the runoff of some of the pots, and sure enough it was off the charts. The huge concentration of salts had, in effect, turned the damp soil in to a desert (due to the extreme concentration difference between the roots and the soil.)

    What's surprising about this is how it happed: Apparently some of the mixed substrate had been exposed during a rain, allowing it to get wet. As water percolated down it carried some of the released salts from the slow-release ferts to the point where the substrate at the bottom was effectively salt-poisoned.

    So just goes to show that even using slow-release fertilizers, it's easy to go overboard.

    Unfortunately that's all I can say on the matter, though. Hope that does something for ya.
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    Why not use ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3)? That's a commonly used fertilizer. Of course it is also commonly used to make bombs too so be prepared to answer a lot of questions if you buy large quantities.

    Whatever happened to the Google ads for bat guano? There's another fine fertilizer full of nitrogen in the forms of urea and uric acid. These break down to ammonia.

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    I don't have all the particulars so if anyone knows details chime in and correct me.

    Anhydrous ammoina is what farmers put on corn fields as nitrogen fert. (the same thing nut jobs use to make meth) It is considered "hot" as the liquid is injected and bound to the soil where it is readily available to the plant without chemical changes needed. The same thing applies to chicken "droppings" they are considered "hot" because of the readily available Nitrogen (it also smells alot like ammonia in large quantities). Granular fertilizers are not as free as the first 2 and cow manure is similar. More breakdowns need to occur at a regular controled rate. Maybe time+temp. and moisture or something. I'm done, all you smart guys have at me !

    The above sounds like a bunch of Bull Manure to me too but as I stated it is easier on your plants than chicken manure.
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    ammonium nitrate=anhydrous ammonia

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    sorta off topic but I was the head of maintenance and hazmat incident commander/responder at a facility that used 80,000lbs of Anhydrous NH3 as a refrigerant. It is very wicked stuff, you can put a dollar bill in it and it will shrink it.. that part is cool, the part that is not cool was its love for moisture.. you can steer the cloud with large streams of water (fire hose). When a leak occured it sought out your eyes, armpits and private areas. When everyone else was running for cover, I was putting on my air tanks and bubble suit.... besides eating human flesh, 80,000lbs can make a very, very big boom

    we had containment "ponds" out behind the facility, they werent there for the ducks... they were there for emergency dump via big underground lines... one night i sat in the control room after I made everyone else evacuate during a tornado...sitting there with my airtanks next to that big red mushroom button just in case the lines on the roof started to rupture, talk about being wound tight, but back then I craved the adreniline

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    Why not use ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3)? That's a commonly used fertilizer. Of course it is also commonly used to make bombs too so be prepared to answer a lot of questions if you buy large quantities.
    apparently you dont live in farm country.......i can buy tons of it without anyone raising an eyebrow
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