Fertilizer plant to aid farmers

Since last fall, a major agricultural construction project has been underway in Andover on the eastern side of Ashtabula County. Centerra Cooperative, the major agricultural cooperative in the area, has been building a state-of-the-art fertilizer storage and blending plant.

This new plant is expected to be complete and in operation by about April 1. It will have seven storage bins of varying capacity from 1,000 to 1,500 tons. Six of the bins will contain specific finds of fertilizer while the seventh one will be what they call a “swing” bin:  The kinds of fertilizer will vary depending on demand.

When in operation, the plant will be computer controlled. A farmer may want a certain blend of fertilizer depending on what a soil test said or yield conditions last fall. That blend is ordered and Centerra employees drive their spreader equipment under a chute. The right buttons are punched to deliver the required blend into the spreader. Then it drives on through and takes the fertilizer out to be spread on the farmer’s land.

Total capacity of this new plant is about 8,000 tons of fertilizer of various kinds.  Fertilizers are brought into the plant by semi-truck. They are dumped onto an unloading area and a conveyor takes them to the right bin.

Construction of this plant didn’t start until last fall. Because of the size, it has been a major project that didn’t get started until cold weather was coming up soon.

The bottom part is concrete with the upper walls and roof made of treated wood.  They were made off-site and trucked to the plant, then lifted by crane and put in place. It has been a cold job for the employees of the company that has the contract for the job.

This new plant is expected to cover farmers in a 50-mile radius from Andover. It will be an asset to farmers because it will provide needed fertilizer blends quickly and efficiently. It represents a major expense, probably about $5 million or more.  Centerra Co-op believes farming in the 50-mile radius justifies this major investment.

Dan Keep, agronomist for Centerra, has kept us informed with pictures as the building went up. It is a spectacular building. With its large storage bins and drying equipment, Centerra handles substantial amounts of grain. There are also two other elevators in the area that handle grain. One is Colebrook Elevators and the other is Deerfield Farms in Kinsman.

The main problem with spreading fertilizer in the spring is having soils dry enough to get on them with heavy equipment. Most of the cropland in the county is tiled and that helps to get them dry enough to work. But farmers need to get on them without getting stuck or compacting the soil.

Decent planting weather is something local farmers hope for every spring.  Working soils too wet can damage soil structure and cause problems later in the spring and during the year. We have become, however, a major grain-growing area.

Submitted by John Parker, an independent writer for the Tribune Chronicle and various farm organizations.


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