Field day gives first look at fertilizer from turkey litter power plant
CLONTARF -- It wasn't glamorous, but a new star in the crop fertilizer business made its debut Tuesday in a field of wheat stubble west of Clontarf.
The ash-based fertilizer generated by the Fibrominn power plant was unveiled to crop input retailers by Cargill Ag Horizons and North American Fertilizer LLC. Cargill is marketing the product, called Nafgrow fertilizer, which will be produced by North American.
North American is the fertilizer conditioning plant located next to the 55-megawatt Fibrominn power plant west of Benson.
The power plant will burn 700,000 tons of turkey litter per year, and the fertilizer plant will turn out an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 tons of Nafgrow per year.
The event was a demonstration for crop input retailers and equipment manufacturers, to familiarize them with the product, according to Jim Krebsbach, marketing manager of the product for Cargill.
The product will be sold from two warehouses, one at the plant in Benson and the other located in Olivia. Krebsbach expects the fertilizer to be used within 30 to 45 miles of the two locations. The annual output of the plant is expected to be used on 350,000 to 400,000 acres of cropland.
The three spreaders working the stubble field Tuesday were applying at a rate of 850 pounds per acre, in preparation for the planting of edible beans next year. The crop retailers observed and took their turn at operating the spreaders, supplied by area equipment dealers.
The nutrient levels found in Nafgrow are lower than commercial fertilizer, Krebsbach says. Nafgrow rates as a 0-10-8 fertilizer, with zero percent nitrogen, 10 percent phosphorus and 8 percent potassium.
The product also contains zinc and sulfur, but those nutrients will not be figured into the price, Krebsbach said.
"Nafgrow will be very competitive with conventional fertilizers," Krebsbach said. However, it is not like traditional fertilizers because Nafgrow has special handling and equipment needs.
The product requires more handling, different spreading equipment and has a moisture content of between 11 and 13 percent.
That said, the cost difference, even with the extra handling figured in, is estimated at $4 to $7 less per acre than conventional fertilizer.
He expects to begin signing contracts with customers by the end of the month. While some product is currently available, the expectation is to be ready for the fall application season.
"We are hoping to see a lot of product hit the ground this fall," Krebsbach said.
University of Minnesota research, completed at sites in Morris, Appleton and Lamberton, showed that crops fertilized with Nafgrow produced the same yield as conventional fertilizer. The test plot at Appleton was irrigated, while the other two sites were not.
The industry hasn't had a new fertilizer product in years, and the crop retailers were working together -- even though they are competitive businesses -- to share ideas on handling and managing the new product, Krebsbach said.
"They are working side by side to get this product to fly," he said. "That is unique."
The event Tuesday drew crop input retailers from Litchfield to Canby to Starbuck.
Turkey litter has experienced an interesting evolution over the last 30 years, according to Paul Hedberg, Atwater-area farmer and commercial applicator. Hedberg also serves on the North American board of directors. What was once given away has moved on to compete with commercial fertilizer and is now a "green" product.
"We started giving it away," he said. "Now we are making electricity from it, then it goes back to the soil."