Nitrogen fertilizer is one of the most important investments a grower will make.
However, once fertilizer hits the field, valuable — and costly — nutrients can be lost to the environment. Thankfully, farmers today have more tools than ever before to help them push crop nutrition to new heights, including nitrogen stabilizers.
What are nitrogen stabilizers?
Nitrogen stabilizers are crop inputs that help growers improve fertilizer efficiency. While many of these products are new to the Prairies, some have been used by American farmers for decades to optimize nitrogen applications and crop performance.
While each product takes a different approach, their objective is the same: to ensure as much nitrogen fertilizer is available to the plant as possible and to reduce losses from leaching, volatilization and/or denitrification.
According to Koch Agronomic Services, as much as 50 per cent of nitrogen can be lost through these mechanisms, depending on the soil type.
The nitrogen stabilizer you choose will depend on several factors, including the kind of nitrogen fertilizer being used and how the fertilizer is being applied. Detailed product information and trial results are available from Koch Agronomic Services and Dow AgroSciences.
How nitrogen is lost
Nitrogen fertilizer is typically applied as anhydrous ammonia, urea or urea-ammonium nitrate (UAN). In all cases, growers risk losing some of that investment to leaching or gaseous loss.
The gaseous escape of nitrogen — volatilization and denitrification — are among the biggest contributors to losses. By adding an appropriate nitrogen stabilizer to fertilizer applications, growers can reduce these losses, increase nutrient efficiency and deliver bigger yields.
“We’re at the point now where the fertility levels are where it warrants using a nitrogen stabilizer,” said Jason Smith of Dow AgroSciences. “For growers who are in sandy type soils, leaching can be a potential problem. For those that are in heavier soils, where moisture is a higher likelihood, denitrification may be more of an issue.”
Who should use nitrogen stabilizers?
Canola, wheat and corn growers in Western Canada can benefit from nitrogen stabilizers in the spring and fall, especially under challenging weather conditions.
Your local Co-op Grow Team agronomist can help you determine if nitrogen stabilizers are right for your farm and identify products that will work best for your fertility program.