Over winter storage of nitrogen fertilizer

Fertilizer is an investment. You purchase it to increase soil health and yields, and you rely on it to perform well in the field. If you decide to purchase N now and plan on storing it over the winter, there are some things to keep in mind. Ray Dowbenko, Senior Specialist Agronomy for ESN has some suggestions for success.


“First off,” Dowbenko explains, “Make sure you put cool, dry fertilizer in a cool, dry bin.” If warm fertilizer is put in a cool bin, it creates moisture, which lowers the quality of the fertilizer and can make it hard to use in the spring.”

Moisture uptake is a serious challenge when it comes to storing N. The best way to combat this problem is by using a controlled release fertilizer with a protective coating like ESN SMART NITROGEN. ESN’s polymer coating helps to prevent the N from taking in moisture from the air. Fertilizers without a coating are more prone to moisture intake, which can result in granules caking together and becoming difficult to remove from bins and apply in the springtime.

Depending on your storage situation and fertilizing strategy, you may be looking at storing blends of fertilizer. Though no official research has been done on the topic, farmers and retailers often suggest that when storing fertilizer without a protective coating, mixing a blend that includes 10 to 15 percent ESN can be very beneficial.

“With ESN, storing it as a single-nutrient or as a blend doesn’t matter as much because of its protective polymer coating.” Dowbenko explains, “If you have a blend of ESN and ammonium sulfate and a blend of urea and ammonium sulfate, the ESN blend will likely store much better.”


In terms of transportation and getting the fertilizer into the bin, Dowbenko suggests running your auger with as full a load as possible because it reduces the chance of abrasion on the granules.

“Make sure you don’t overload your equipment.” He warns, “The angle of incline must be appropriate to your auger, but generally, the steeper the incline, the more likely the product is to get damaged.”

Once the fertilizer is in the bin, try to leave it there for the rest of the season. When it comes to fertilizer, the less you handle and move it, the better. Each time fertilizer is handled, the surface area can increase due to granule abrasion and creation of dust.  An increased amount of surface area means the fertilizer can take in more moisture – similar to how paper towel with small pillows is more effective than one without because surface area increases moisture intake. Some fertilizers are more durable than others. ESN, for example, is significantly more resilient because of its protective polymer coating.

For more on ESN, visit smartnitrogen.com.