Chilean Nitrate (NaNO3), also known as Natural Nitrate of Soda (NNS), is a mined product from a desert in Northern Chile, which is the only known deposit of this mineral salt in the world. NNS has an analysis of 15-0-2 and is considered soluble. NNS is commonly used in New England and elsewhere on organic farms as a form of nitrogen that is available to plants in cold soils. The microbial activity needed to mineralize natural organic nitrogen (protein) is suppressed during those times of the year when the soil is cold.
The sodium (Na) content of sodic soils makes NNS incompatible in arid and semiarid regions. It contains 24 percent Na. Na, in small quantities, does not cause damage to the soil ecosystem. Plants can use this element, and it is an essential nutrient for most animals and other organisms. The nitrate is used directly by the plant and does not need to be biologically processed. However, microorganisms will also use this source of nitrogen for the production of protein and amino acids. Applying NNS along with an organic amendment (such as cocoa meal, peanut meal or compost) will increase the efficiency of both products. NNS should not be relied upon as a sole source of N.
A word about Chilean nitrate
The NOSB recommended that NOP implement a rule change prohibiting Chilean nitrate as a source of nitrogen on certified organic farms and it was scheduled to take effect in October, 2012. However, the NOP has not made any specific determination yet. It is uncertain if Chilean nitrate will eventually be prohibited on certified organic farms or not.
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