Will Your Fertilizer Tanks Go Another Season?

Now is the time to tell- before you get geared up.

Published on: Mar 19, 2010

You don't sleep if Fred Whitford is speaking. That's because he is liable to call on you. He reserves his most embarrassing comments for those who don't pay attention. That wasn't a problem when Whitford spoke at a meeting sponsored by Morgan County Extension, held at Equipment Technology in Mooresville last week.

"We want to give our farmers a chance to get continuing credits for their pesticide license," says Chris Parker, Extension ag educator in Morgan County. "At the same time we want to provide them with information that may help them prevent a tragedy, or stay out of a messy lawsuit."

The person who found out he had already met requirements of attending meetings for this period for his applicator's license and chose to walk out instead of stay was the real loser in this case. Whitford not only kept everyone wake, but had them asking all kinds of questions when he talked about what might happen if you don't think about how you're using plastic storage tanks this spring.

"In Indiana you don't have to have dikes unless one tank holds more than 2,500 gallons, or you have more than 7,500 gallons on hand at the farm," Whitford says. "So I know without visiting that unless someone has a dike, if they farm a decent number of acres at all, they likely have three, plastic, 2,500 gallon tanks for liquid storage."

He also can guess that they have basic tanks, rated as 1.0 density, he says. That's because many people buy on price, and tanks made less dense are usually cheaper. Here's the rub.

"They are really designed to hold water, or water with chemicals," Whitford says. "They're not rated strong enough to hold liquid fertilizer over time, because it's considerably heavier than water. So unless you ask, you probably got a 1.0 tank. For liquid fertilizer storage, you need a 1.5 density tank. And the strongest out there is 1.9. It's a bit more expensive, but I recommend it where tanks may suffer abuse, such as for small, 100 or 150 gallon tanks used in the field under field conditions.

Each tank ahs a lifetime- it's not permanent, Whitford emphasized. "The secret is knowing when it's lived its life and should be discarded. I've been called out to see farmers where a tank literally exploded because it was kept too long.

"There are ways to look for small hairline cracks, either with a flashlight or by marking over the area with a water-soluble marker, then looking for crack marks. There's also the ball bat test."

On another tank like the farmer's tank that literally exploded, also on his farm, the farmer's son still couldn't hurt it with a bat on the back side, away from the sun. The sun is an enemy of plastic, Whitford says.

However you do it, Whitford hopes you will take time to check tanks before loading them up to head to the field this spring. Tune in next week to learn what can happen if you use the wrong type of tank as the tanks you take to the field, over time.