Crop nutrition

Fertiliser handling and safety

Fertiliser storage

Correct storage of fertiliser is important to ensure safety and security. Where possible, fertilisers should be stored in a closed, secure storage place to protect the product from the weather and reduce the risk of theft.

Ideal storage conditions

  • Enclosed building capable of protecting the product from the weather and especially direct sunlight.
  • Clean environment, free of dust/dirt.
  • Temperature between 5 and 30˚C (some fertiliser types are sensitive to high temperatures)
  • Protect the fertiliser from moisture, which can cause lumps and dust, influencing spreading capabilities
  • Equipped with pallet racking to avoid the need for double stacking
  • Good stock management e.g. carried out on a First In, First Out basis

Indoor storage

  • The store should preferably be single store, constructed of not-readily combustible material (e. g. concrete, brick, steel)
  • All buildings should have adequate provisions for ventilation to help dissipate heat and discharge fumes in a fire or decomposition.
  • The floor should have a level, dry and even surface, free from pot-holes.
  • Limit the height of fertiliser stacks. High stacks of bagged fertiliser can be unstable and may collapse.
  • Limit the size of stacks of fertiliser bags in accordance with national regulations, if any. (300 tons for straight ammonium nitrate (> 28 % N))
  • Store at least 1 meter away from building eaves and beams and, in the case of bagged fertiliser, also from walls.
  • If you stack on pallets, they have to be placed on a firm drained surface. If you place the pallets on top of each other, make sure you have a firm base.
  • Do not store in bulk materials which are incompatible near each other e.g. urea near ammonium nitrate-based fertilisers; keep them well separated. Never mix fertilisers without dividing the stock in trade. Keep lime and fertiliser well separated. (See compatibility matrix below and physical properties of fertilisers)

Compatibility matrix for blending fertiliser materials

  • In an indoor storage on a flat surface, you can increase to three sacks in height.
  • Keep the fertiliser away from any flammable material. Make sure you have a distance of at least 5 meters between the materials. Most nitrogen fertilisers contain nitrates which decomposes when heated, developing toxic nitrogen oxides already at 150˚C. Some products can even develop carbon oxides (CO, CO2) and sulphur oxides as well.
Diagram showing how to store fertiliser

Outdoor storage

  • Store on a raised level, well-drained, dry and smooth surface.
  • Use a pallet beneath the bags to prevent direct contact with the ground and the water (i.e. in case of heavy rain). Only use pallets with undamaged pallet caps, they must also be free from splinters and nails.
  • Stack should not lean, if they do, rebuild them immediately.
  • In order to preserve product quality, place a layer of empty pallets on top of the stack prior to sheeting to prevent product deterioration due to heat effects (as advised by the manufacturer/supplier).
  • Where pallet racking is not available certain combinations of pallets may be double stacked.
  • Stacks should be sheeted to prevent bags from getting dirty and the sheets should be secured to the bottom layer of the stacks to prevent damage, which may be caused by rubbing and friction.
  • Exercise great caution when sheeting and desheeting stacks, it should preferably be carried out in good weather conditions.
  • Verify the stability of the stack before untying the sheets. Sheets may become coated with algae. This is slippery and potentially hazardous.
  • In cold weather, sheeted stacks may be covered in ice. This is frequently heavy and sharp. Falling ice blocks are extremely hazardous. Ice is slippery and potentially hazardous.
  • All fertiliser stored outside should be protected from the elements by covering with a tarpaulin. Anchor the tarp well around the product. Splice should overlap at least 30 cm. Keep the ground and driveways free of fertiliser spills.

For outside storage, place pallets on top of the covered fertiliser to protect against damage caused by birds to tarpaulin and bags.

For stability and safety, big bags should be stored in the form of a pyramid. Pallets stack height should be no higher than 3-pallets high depending on product, stability of the pallet and handling equipment.

Diagram showing how to store fertiliser