TOTAL NITROGEN (N)..............................16.0%
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 16-0-0 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 26 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 Chilean nitrate along with an organic amendment (such as cocoa meal, peanut meal or compost or worm castings) will increase the efficiency of both products.
Chilean nitrate should not be relied upon as a sole source of N. Because it is so soluble, it dissolves readily in the soil and leaches out quickly and can cause damage to the water table. Generally the most nitrogen allowed from this source is 20% of your total inputs of N per year under organic rules but that is always changing.
A proposed NOP rule change prohibiting Chilean nitrate as a source of nitrogen on certified organic farms is scheduled to take place in October, 2012, however, it has not yet been determined if the rule change will be implemented this year.
If you are a registered organic farm, check with your certifying agency to find out what the total allowable NaNO3 input from chilean nitrate per year is.