Managing nutrient programs to snuff out the three types of nitrogen loss — leaching, volatilization, and denitrification — is crucial to securing a solid yearly return-on-investment for row crop growers. Therefore, ag retailers must offer products and services — along with the requisite “trusted advisor” know-how, to ensure grower-customers remain satisfied with the overall efficiency of their often retailer-stewarded fertility programs.
And while using some of today’s most advanced nitrogen stabilization products certainly falls into that mix, it can also sometimes mean foregoing a stabilizer in certain situations. It’s not very often that happens — although it does still occur from time to time, notes Cody Wirtjes, plant nutrients manager, Asmus Farm Supply (AFS).
“Sure, there are times we still sell nitrogen without a stabilizer, it’s not for everybody,’ he says. “Not everybody does it; we’d certainly like everybody to, but some don’t.”
For 2017, those that “do” in AFS’ territory utilized a significant supply of Dow AgroScience’s Instinct II on fall-applied hog manure, and the cooperative has a good amount of business pre-booked for the spring around Koch Agronomic Service’s AGROTAIN ULTRA product with growers that surface-apply UAN and opt not to knife it in.
“I think it all comes down to the proper application and proper nitrogen rates,” Wirtjes explains. “I mean, you can use a stabilizer all you want but if you’re not running economical rates of nitrogen that you’re supposed to be running, then your response is going to be fairly limited. So, what I’m trying to get at is, do the right thing and put on just what you’re going to need. You don’t need to put on extra nitrogen, and just stabilize what you’ve got.”
Nitrogen stabilizers product manager Kenny Johnson has a particularly interesting background for a guy that’s traversing the highways and dirt roads of the Midwest, helping retailers lock-in inventories of Dow AgroSciences popular Instinct and N-Serve product lines for the coming season.
Before heading to Indianapolis to work for Dow AgroSciences, Johnson graduated from West Point and served as a U.S. Army field artillery officer, stationed first in Germany before embarking on a 15-month tour of duty in Afghanistan. During his tour overseas, Johnson provided humanitarian food assistance to malnourished Afghanis while also providing indirect artillery fire for an Army infantry company.
“It was the impetus for me to get into agriculture,” recalls Johnson, who also worked for USDA and Cargill prior to turning up at Dow AgroSciences. “It’s really the perfect role for me, nitrogen stabilizers and nutrient management. It gets me up in the morning. I love what I do, and I love keeping the environment safe and putting more bushels in the bin for our growers, and more income for our retailers as well. There’s not too many win-wins out there but I think we’ve got something special.”
That something special that Johnson refers to are Dow AgroSciences long-tenured nitrogen stabilizer brands, N-Serve and Instinct. He describes the Instinct line as “a great fit with liquid fertilizer, urea, and manure” and N-Serve a great fit for both fall and spring-applied anhydrous ammonia.
At the time we spoke, Johnson says that Dow AgroSciences is particularly excited about a recent honor bestowed upon its family of stabilization products, the Iowa Water Quality Initiative Leader Award, which was given Feb. 14 by Iowa Secretary of Ag Bill Northey.
“Basically what this is saying is that our products are helping their constituents in Iowa reach Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy goals, so that’s huge news for us,” Johnson says. “It’s a strong signal that we protect water across the United States of America.”
Of course, no article on nitrogen stabilizers would be complete without a mention of Verdesian’s product lines.
According to Darin Lickfeldt, Ph.D, senior technical development manager, NutriSphere-N has been put on over 46 million acres in over ten years, and AVAIL phosphorus fertilizer enhancer has made it onto over 72 million acres.
“It’s a tough economy out there, both for growers and retailers, and so in the case of NutriSphere-N there’s over 500 trials and now 10 years of sales that support the product,” argues Lickfeldt. “When we talk ROI we have at least a three-to-one ROI, meaning every dollar spent on NutriSphere-Nreturns three dollars back to the grower, so retailers can sell the products with confidence. Ninety percent of our trials over the years have provided a positive yield response over the untreated control.”
Still, even with such effective products, Lickfeldt finds himself reminding anyone that will listen that the 4Rs remain crucial to stemming in-field losses.
“Just because you put a stabilizer on something doesn’t mean you should go apply something at an extremely high rate, put it all on the surface, and then lose a bunch of it. You’ve still got to follow the 4Rs.”
New Products for 2017
Actagro recently announced the launch of its newest nitrogen stabilization product, Proximus, which is derived from the Fresno, CA-based manufacturer’s Nutri-Guard Technology Platform, according to a press release from the company.
Designed for use with liquid nitrogen fertilizer, Proximus “uses patent pending technology to synchronize nutrient delivery to the plant” when it needs it most. Company-sponsored field trials indicate Proximus reduces leaching by up to 69%, increases nitrogen efficiency by up to 23%, and increases overall yields up to 15%.
Actagro also claims that Proximus is a naturally sustainable solution that ensures nitrogen applications remain available to the crop, and that it is the first product launched within Actagro’s Nutri-Guard Technology Platform designed to restrict nutrient depletion and loss.
“Proximus represents a new alternative solution for nitrogen management in production agriculture,” said Monty Bayer, President and CEO, Actagro, in the release. “The benefits Proximus offers growers are a direct result of Actagro’s continued investment in technology development and R&D.”
Actagro reps say that Proximus will be available in select U.S. markets for the 2017 growing season.
Dow AgroSciences also has a new product in store for retailers in 2017 with Instinct High Load (HL), which was limited in supply in fall 2016 in anticipation of a full launch this season.
“It’s the same active ingredient that we have in N-Serve, which has 40 years of history and supporting testing from third-parties and universities,” explains Johnson. “With Instinct HL the use rate is going down from 37 ounces to 24 ounces per acre, but it’s more active ingredient per gallon, so retailers can spend less time blending when you’re impregnating on urea.
“It still has same great handling characteristics as Instinct II, so we’re excited about really positioning that in the urea market, as we see urea production and use growing across the United States.”
Simplot Grower Solutions (Boise, ID) is another company that launched a new nitrogen stabilization product within the last 24 months with its Eclipse-N, featuring OmniPierce Technology.
Jason Radford, retail director, specialty products, says the urease inhibitor NBPT-powered product (N-(n-butyl) thiophosphoric triamide) has no crop restrictions (can be used in any cropping system), is designed to work with any urea-based nitrogen fertilizer and was designed with both bulk liquid as well as granular applications in mind.
“Eclipse-N is our private-labeled NBPT product that contains a unique solvent that makes it different from other NBPT products,” Radford explains. “The OmniPierce Technology allows the NBPT to penetrate deeper into the urea for more complete coverage on dry blends.”
Another aspect that makes Eclipse-N unique is it blends well with dry granular fertilizers in lower temperatures, it has a lower crystallization temperature and it offers better cold weather blending performance overall, according to Radford. These are all ideal product characteristics for retailers treating urea throughout the winter months in order to be ready for the annual spring fertilizer rush.
“Those reasons alone make the product a good fit for our retail locations in the northern geographies,” he says.
Eclipse-N was evaluated alongside urea alone and other similarly-formulated products by West Texas A&M University, where researchers found it more effectively reduced nitrogen volatilization and showed increases at harvest in both overall yield and kernel weight.
Meanwhile, two new-ish products by Verdesian that the company soft-launched in both 2015 and 2016 look to gain market share in 2017. Those two products would be NutriSphere-N High Volume (HV) and NutriSphere NH3.
According to Lickfeldt, HV can also be used in low volumes, and the product is going to be huge for retailers that treat high volumes of UAN.
“Stabilizing all that, it can get really costly for the grower; if they’re putting on 50 gallons an acre, they’re going to choke on the price,” he reasons. “HV has a flat rate of 18 ounces per acre so that way the grower doesn’t have to swallow those high costs.”
NutriSphere-NH3, meanwhile, still features the same low odor formulation in an easy to handle, one quart per-acre use rate that provides good profitability to the retail chain.
“NutriSphere NH3, it’s sold in 250 gallon totes and one of those totes will treat a thousand acres,” says Lickfeldt. “A retailer only has to purchase what he needs (for the season), nothing more.”