March 2, 2021

Anhydrous Safety, Behind the Scenes

MaxYield NH3With nearly 400 anhydrous tanks, MaxYield Cooperative works hard to ensure safety first, both at the cooperative and on the farm.

“Anhydrous is a very good nitrogen source, but it’s important to handle it correctly,” said Tom Winkel, MaxYield’s safety coordinator and operations assistant. “We want to keep everything safe for our clients and team members.”

This starts at MaxYield, which has a team of 14 certified cargo tank inspectors within the company. They have been trained by the U.S. Department of Transportation and are registered through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These specialists visually inspect each tank each year to check the tires, welds, and gauges.

“Just like a person gets an annual checkup at the doctor, we inspect each individual tank to make sure everything works properly,” Winkel said.

Every five years, the MaxYield team conducts a pressure test and thickness test on each tank. “This is like an ultrasound,” said Winkel, who noted that many anhydrous tanks were built in the 1960s and 1970s. “Tanks experience a lot of stress as they are pulled down the road and across the field. Any tanks that don’t make the minimum requirement are not used.”

MaxYield has donated some of its decommissioned anhydrous tanks to Iowa State University, Winkel added. ISU researchers physically cut the tanks into segments to look for Stress Corrosion Cracking (SCC). They map all the cracks using both ultrasound and a complex procedure referred to as Neutron diffraction. This study (which began in December of 2008) has just recently been completed and is being reviewed by FMCSA.

This detailed testing will help the ag community better understand the life expectancy of typical anhydrous tanks. The age of the tank, type of steel, the manufacturer, and how that tank was used over the years will dictate how long the useful life of this tank will be. This scientific study will help us determine when that might be.

Stay safe

To ensure your safety on the farm, MaxYield reminds you to:

Tow nurse tanks carefully. A fully loaded nurse tank can weigh more than 17,000 pounds for a double tank and 8,000 pounds for a single tank. Consider attaching a tow bar directly to the frame of your vehicle. Inspect the pin periodically, and make sure there is a safety clip to keep the pin in place. Iowa law also requires safety chains from the nurse tank to be attached to your vehicle. The chains should be crossed under the tongue and then attached to your vehicle. Drive slowly (less than 35 miles per hour) when pulling a tank with a SMV sign, and pay particular attention on curves and downhill slopes.

Wear correct personal protective gear, including goggles, heavy rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants.

Check hoses and connections. If you find a hose or connection is loose, repair it at once. The valve should be tight and not allowed to rotate due to field vibrations. On horizontal connections, we suggest having the valve at a 1-3 o’clock position to allow the weight of the valve to help keep the connection tight.

Have water supply handy. Make sure the water tank on the nurse tank is full. If you are burned by anhydrous, flush the affected area with plenty of water as quickly as possible, and continue to do so for 15 minutes or more. Seek medical attention if necessary. Winkel invites you to attend the anhydrous safety training meetings that MaxYield hosts each spring and fall for its team members. He’s also available to speak about anhydrous safety to local first responders, 4-H clubs, FFA chapters, and community organizations. For more information, call 800-383-0003 or e-mail


Share Your Thoughts