Storing and handling your ESN: tips for success

Man holding jar of green nitrogen fertilizer granules

To get the most out of your ESN, you already know to follow proper application guidelines as they relate to your region and crop. It’s often just as important to follow proper storage and handling protocol to ensure your ESN granules are in great condition to deliver nitrogen when and where your crop needs it.

Compared to a conventional fertilizer, ESN has a lower angle of repose, low hygroscopicity, less bridging in the bin, and is more free flowing. That means that some different considerations must be applied to handling ESN.

As a rule of thumb, handle ESN with the same care as you would seed.

How damage can happen

Excessive handling is the greatest cause of damage in many fertilizer types, including ESN. While designed to withstand normal handling and application practices, improper or excessive handling can compromise the ESN coating. Damage is primarily caused by contact with improperly maintained equipment parts, such as rust and scale build-up.

Best practices for handling

Ensure equipment is in good repair and properly adjusted. If equipment hasn’t been used for some time and has rust and scale build-up, run several tons of other fertilizer through the equipment before ESN.

Belt conveyors are the preferred conveyance systems. Screw augers and drag chains are not recommended, but if used should be run as full as possible and run at slower speeds. Small diameter screw augers can be particularly damaging to ESN.

For loading and unloading, belt angle should not exceed 18 degrees.

Storage 101

The bin capacity of ESN will be less than for conventional urea, usually around 75% of urea capacity. However, ESN weighs 48 pounds per cubic foot, approximately the same as urea. The angle of repose on ESN is 19.6 degrees compared to 30 degrees for urea.

One of the storage benefits of ESN is that it can be stored for longer periods of time than conventional fertilizers because it does not absorb water from humidity in the air and cake in the bin. Historically, other fertilizers containing a minimum of 15% ESN or more in the blend have shown to flow better out of a hopper bottom bin after being stored over winter with virtually no fertilizer set up occurring in the spring.

ESN is more fluid than other dry fertilizers and has a tendency to flow out of bin doors into alleyways, even through small openings in flat storage sheds. Bulkheads are recommended to prevent outward flow from these bins. ESN also exerts more pressure on the lower sidewalls of bins. Bin sidewalls should be reinforced concrete where possible. Older, weaker, and/or wooden sidewalls should either be braced, or ESN should be placed in center bins with product in adjacent bins to support the bin wall.

Finally, avoid storage of ESN in the same facility as ammonium nitrate.

The best blend

If using ESN in a blend with other fertilizer products, blend all other products first, add the ESN, and blend for as little time as required. It is essential to avoid excess blending, and blenders should be run as full as possible. Inclined-axis blenders (cement-mixer type) cause the least product abrasion followed by vertical-auger blenders (Doyle type).

In the field

Applicators should be properly maintained and in good repair. For proper product distribution, all spreaders – whether new or old, both spinners and airflow – must be properly calibrated and adjusted for ESN and ESN blends. Reducing the air speeds in airflow spreaders can reduce the impact on deflector shields, and if spinner spreaders are used, double spreading is highly recommended. As with any field application, calibration of application equipment ensures accurate placement.

For more information on ESN handling recommendations, click here.

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