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Old October 8, 2018, 08:08 AM   #1
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Using smokeless powder in fertilizer.

This is an off the wall weird question. The city i live in allows us to keep chickens within city limits in small quantities. So i got 4 beautiful hens that provide me with all the eggs i could ever eat. A friend at my work takes the poo and uses it in his compost taking it off my hands. After it decomposes, his granddaughter likes to go digging for worms in it. I suggested that i add a little leftover powder to it to help out but he is concerned it might hurt the worms which are crucial to the composting process.

What do you guys think? Will smokeless powder harm the earthworms?
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Old October 8, 2018, 10:32 AM   #2
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No idea. The issue is actually complicated. The nitrocellulose and, if it is a double-base powder, the nitroglycerin will eventually break down, but there is both stabilizer (diphenylamine, usually) and deterrent (chemistry varies with the powder maker) as several percent or more of the weight. That is why smokeless powders have energy densities that can range from about 3600 J/g to over 5,000 J/g. It's the slower, single-base powders with a lot of deterrent chemistry in the first instance and the fast double-base powders with little by way of deterrents in the second instance, though graphite or other anti-static surface treatments also contribute some portion of the mass of the powder.

The nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin will ultimately break down spontaneously into carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen in some combination (as CO, CO₂, water, NO₂ and N0₃, NH₃OH or NH₄ gas), but usually not until the stabilizer is consumed by the first acid radicals to get loose and unless bacteria that can break down and consume the deterrent and stabilizer is present. If it's not, the powder may remain relatively intact for decades.

If what your friend is making is a "hot" compost, the powder's contribution is likely to be poor. If it could harm anything or not I can't say for certain. It doesn't seem to bother lawns, as I've disposed of powder that way, though not before it was already breaking down, meaning the diphenylamine was already gone. Anyway, I think, unless your chickens are free to peck your lawn, that's where I would put it unless I could get the powder company to say for sure that it's harmless in compost that will grow vegetables to be consumed by people.
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Old October 8, 2018, 10:41 AM   #3
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If it would or not doesn't seem to matter. Worms have lived a long time in plain old dirt!
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Old October 8, 2018, 11:34 AM   #4
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There's one way to find out....


On the other hand, it wouldn't surprise me to find out that the EPA or local equivalent thereof hasn't outlawed either gun powder or components used in it from being 'disposed of improperly' in the soil.

While the current federal administration is paring back many regulations, there are still zealots in positions of power that have administrative abilities to make an example of something like that.

I wouldn't.
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Old October 8, 2018, 11:35 AM   #5
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The one ingredient in smokeless powder that would most affect worms is the diphenylamine. That chemical is often specifically used to kill worms of many varieties. So if your gunpowder contains it, it would not be a good addition to a compost pile in which that the pile owner wants to harvest worms.

It really all depends on how much gunpowder you were planning to contribute to the compost pile. A little powder probably wouldn't make much difference in the worm population, but a lot, say one or two pounds spread evenly, would.
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Old October 8, 2018, 11:55 AM   #6
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Diphenylamine is used in all kinds of agriculture. If a worm was bothered by it, the EPA and PITA would be whining. The worms have a much greater issue in being eaten alive by one of your chickens.
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Old October 8, 2018, 12:11 PM   #7
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I only burn powder

I suggested that i add a little leftover powder to it to help out but he is concerned it might hurt the worms which are crucial to the composting process.
Please excuse me if I don't understand, the purpose or advantages to feeding smokeless powder to anything. I have heard of folks putting BP in their dog's food, that I would not do…..

I use to raise rabbits and would let the raise wash out the urine. After a time I would feed it to beds of worms that I also raised and sold. They thrived on it. I also sold it, to neighbor ladies who used it in their flower beds.

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Old October 8, 2018, 12:13 PM   #8
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Thanks for all the responses. As always after asking a question, ive learned alot.

On the powder bothering my chickens, city doesnt let them free range so theres no worries there. They would be alot happier and give me more eggs but alas.
Normally i just add whatever powder i have to throw away to some of my pets bedding when I toss it on my wifes rose garden. It might help it might not. I dont get much powder to throw away. Only when i get old mil surplus to pull or my occasional f up. Which probably amounts to about a pound a year total. I just dont like wasting things and thought it might help. But i dont think it would be worth it and will continue giving it to the roses.

Once again, thank you all

Last edited by joeanybody; October 8, 2018 at 12:15 PM. Reason: Misstype
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Old October 8, 2018, 01:00 PM   #9
Mal H
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Originally Posted by T. O'Heir
Diphenylamine is used in all kinds of agriculture.
Absolutely right, it is used in agriculture as an insecticide, a fungicide, and in medicine as an antihelmintic. (You might want to look up the meaning of the root word (helminth) of that last one.)

Implying that it is fine to include a chemical designed to kill anything in something where you want things to remain alive is ... well, it's wrong.
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Old October 8, 2018, 06:26 PM   #10
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I go with the OP, better safe than sorry and it hurts nothing not to do it and it could have consequence to use it.

And I am just dying to hear from the Gun Companies on their approval to use GP for anything other than a boom in a case and gun shell that in a chamber designed for it!
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Old October 8, 2018, 07:22 PM   #11
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If a child is playing in the compost, I'd be inclined to keep the gun powder out of it. It's probably perfectly safe. But then, maybe it isn't. Why take the chance.

On those odd situations where I have a little smokeless propellant that needs tossing, I broadcast it onto my lawn. But no children are digging around in it. And notice I didn't say I put it in my tomato garden either.
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