How does fertilizer move around California?

Dan Liptzin and Todd Rosenstock listen as Ken Johnson explains how fertilizer comes in on rail cars and is unloaded at the TSI facility in Dixon.

Much of it starts out as anhydrous ammonia shipped into Stockton, Sacramento and other ports from countries like Trinidad and Venezuela, and is then transported around the state for use as fertilizer by truck or rail car.

Members of the California Nitrogen Assessment team, in our continued quest to learn all about how nitrogen moves throughout California, recently went on a field trip to see TSI, a fertilizer wholesaler with a plant in Dixon.

At TSI, we spoke with manager Ken Johnson and learned about how his company makes custom mixes of fertilizer for farmers with specific needs; if growers want a little bit of zinc or humic acid added to their fertilizer mix, for example, Ken's company can do this for them. Assessment team members also heard about the role circumstances like weather play in the types of fertilizer farmers use. Since we've had a lot of late rains in California this year, farmers will end up applying fertilizer differently than they would in a dry year, when they can get out into their fields earlier.

Later on in the day, we stopped by another TSI facility in Woodland. This one's completely automated; trucks stop by and in just 15-20 minutes fill their tanks with one of four available fertilizers. In contrast to the TSI plant in Dixon, the fertilizers on offer here are non-customizable and fulfill more of a one-size-fits-all need; the advantage is that they are always available and the farmer doesn't have to wait for a custom blend to be mixed.

To see more photos from our fertilizer tours, check out our Facebook page.

The California Nitrogen Assessment team continues to learn about how nitrogen fertilizer moves through California through meetings with farmers and members of all aspects of the fertilizer industry. To learn more about the California Nitrogen Assessment, check out our website.