Six years ago, Albert Wagner needed 100,000 bushels-worth of added storage. The traditional bin route would have cost him about $2.45/bu over 10 years (including a residual value for the bins), but he also had one of two fertilizer bins nearing the end of its useful life. That got him thinking about bagging grain, which led to him thinking about bagging fertilizer, too. When he ran the numbers, he estimated the bagging system would cost about $1.65/bu for grain storage over the same life span (not including operating costs, and no residual value for the equipment).
Wagner, who farms at Stony Plain, Alta., recently presented his experience with bagging fertilizer at FarmTech. Overall he says the experience has been positive. “The bags seal well. We usually store 46-0-0, or a 46-0-0 blend (with 11-52-0),” he says. “We store 600 tonnes in bags per year.” The main benefit, he says, is that he really has unlimited storage now, allowing him to take delivery at any time. The cost savings of buying and storing fertilizer in the fall vs. spring purchases paid for the total capital investment in the first two years.
There are, however, a few management considerations. First, bags are susceptible to tears and rips, either by wildlife or other pests. Just like you would if the bags held grain, Wagner monitors the bags for damage on a regular basis and repairs any holes immediately. Siting of the bags is also important, as rainfall and spring melt water could both wreak havoc on the contents (not to mention cause an environmental headache). Wagner makes sure to site the bags so that rainfall is most likely to run away from the sealed end, on sandy soil and where spring melt waters don’t accumulate.
Some farmers wondered how fertilizer might impact the actual equipment, to which Wagner replies that it’s a maintenance cost just like any other. “What do you do when your combine wears out? You replace it.” That said, he says they always wash the extractor after using it for fertilizer to decrease the corrosive risk.