N Stabilizers: Stewards Of Fertility

For head agronomist Robert Phillips, Hintzsche Fertilizer, Inc., Maple Park, IL, convincing skeptical grower-customers to opt-in to the retailer’s roster of nitrogen (N) stabilizer products is a relatively pain-free exercise.

Phillips, who reports that the No. 37 CropLife 100 retailer was the nations’ fourth-ranked distributor by volume of Dow AgroScience’s Instinct this past year, says that all of his agronomists “highly recommend” growers protect their N investment with a stabilizer, and they receive very little pushback.

“Just from the yield data we see and trials we’ve done, they strongly suggest that it’s pretty much a ‘no-brainer’ in a lot of situations,” he says.

Hintzsche currently vends the aforementioned Instinct, as well as Dow’s N-Serve, along with both Agrotain and Specialty Fertilizer Products (SFP) merchandise.

When making recommendations on which products to use in a given situation, Phillips says they all have unique agronomic fits.

“We are a huge 32% (32-0-0) company and Instinct seems to work pretty good with that blend,” says Phillips. “If a guy is in a low-rate ‘weed and feed’ type scenario with 50 or less units of N going on, we’ll use the Agrotain PLUS. And SFP’s More Than Manure (MTM) is great for stabilizing N and phosphorus in manure pits. It all depends on how you’re going to lose your N.”

A Stable Of Stabilizers

Parma, MO-based AgXplore characterizes 2013 as a two-fold success. “It was a great year for our nitrogen management aids,” says Tim Gutwein, director of sales. “We first attribute our success to the broadening awareness of the need to protect one’s fertilizer investment, but equally as important, AgXplore continued growth in geographic reach.”

AgXplore’s NZONE line headed up the companies’ offerings, and Gutwein says “NZONE has been a huge success for AgXplore; whereas many competitor products are harmful to soil bacteria, NZONE is not detrimental to the soil or bacteria.

“The interesting thing about NZONE,” he continues, “is that it works in so many different circumstances, whereas the efficacy of our competition tends to be very sensitive to moisture levels, soil pH, soil type and a variety of other factors.  What is also interesting is that our competition rarely will produce a test that shows NZONE to be inferior to their products when it comes to yield and this is where the rubber hits the road for most farmers.”

According to Gutwein, 2014 will see a new formulation of NZONE Max released, which will result “in treated urea being dryer and flowing better through application equipment.” Additionally, the company is working on a new product that will have a different mode of action that will compliment. Gutwein anticipates an announcement about this product in the coming months.

Meanwhile, Dow AgroScience’s N-Serve is ramping up to commemorate its 40th year of service to the industry this summer.

“This product has really withstood the test of time,” says product manager Jason Moulin, U.S. nitrogen stabilizers. “Even in a challenging year like this past one when ammonium nitrate (AN) season came a bit later, we continue to grow the product.”

This fall, the Iowa Department of Agriculture announced that Iowa growers implementing nutrient reduction practices are eligible for cost-share conservation funds. Under the initiative, growers who try N-Serve nitrogen stabilizer with their fall application of anhydrous ammonia can qualify for a $3-per-acre rebate, up to 160 acres, for first-time use of the product.

“Basically, Iowa incentivized N-Serve for growers because of its ability to reduce nitrate run-off,” says Moulin. “It’s an issue that’s top of mind in the industry, and with N-Serve being able to reduce leeching by 16% and greenhouse gas emissions by up to 50%, it’s really a perfect fit for a program like that.”

Aside from N-Serve, Dow’s other N stabilizer, Instinct, has undergone reformulation and is being rebranded as Instinct II. According to Moulin, the new product is enhanced by its lower freezing point.

“Instinct is a water-based formulation, so when it’s being stored over-winter some retailers have experienced difficulties storing the product,” he explains. “Now they can store it for all 12 months, and that will especially help during pre-pay season (Dec./Jan.).”

Another difference between the two formulations is that Instinct II will have a slightly higher per acre rate (37 oz./acre, as opposed to 35 oz./acre). For 2014 Dow anticipates having Instinct II registered in wheat.

“This N stabilizer market is in a growth phase and retailers should see some exciting stuff coming out in the next few years,” says Moulin. “These are no longer ‘nice to have’ products; they are now a ‘need to have’ product.”

At Koch Agronomic Services, things are looking up after the 2012 acquisition of Agrotain. According to a recent press release, in response to a reported increase in demand for SUPERU, production at the St. Louis, MO, facility will be complemented by additional production at the Koch Fertilizer Canada, ULC plant located in Brandon, MB.

“SUPERU is a good example of executing the global vision of Koch Agronomic Services. Working together with producers like Koch Fertilizer and other industry participants and marketing channels, we will continue to bring enhanced efficiency fertilizers and value-added technologies to the marketplace,” said Chase Koch, Senior Vice President of Koch Agronomic Services. “We remain committed to making the necessary capital investments, expanding our team and introducing innovative solutions that meet the demands of our customers globally.”

“A primary focus for us is investing in technologies and manufacturing that will increase the speed and efficiencies in production agriculture,” said Scott McGinn, Koch Nitrogen Co.’s senior vice president for North America. “Adding this SUPERU production capability at our Canadian facility supports our overall expansion efforts and provides value for our customers and suppliers. This move will benefit growers in both the Northern Plains of the U.S. and Western Canada as they plan for their spring 2014 crop plan with their retail agronomist.”

SFP’s Reggie Underwood, national sales manager, says that despite waning market conditions, the company’s N Stabilizer portfolio experienced solid sales growth in 2013. “Even with some of the challenges in the fertilizer market, and shorter windows of application timing in areas across the country, we are seeing good growth.”

Its dry formulation of NutriSphere-N has been enhanced for retailers in 2014, according to Underwood. The product has a new distinguishable orange color, which Underwood says is good for retailers storing similar products in adjacent bins. Also, by pre-treating urea with NutriSphere-N, it has a longer shelf life with enhanced storability, and makes for more uniform applications. “Our products’ shelf life doesn’t start ticking until it’s applied on a per-acre basis,” he says.

“Dealers in some parts of the country are familiar with having a little mess in front of the bins,” adds Underwood. “With this new dry formulation you will have a much cleaner area for storing pre-treated urea.

“Another thing dealers like is,  they can pre-treat on the in-bound side, so they’re not waiting on the manufactures’ ability to deliver product. With NutriSphere-N’s ability to dry quickly, they also have the opportunity to treat urea and apply it directly to the field. The flexibility of product application gives them added control based on their own fertilizer schedules.”

The NutriSphere-N liquid formulation also saw success when deployed in combination with liquid fertilizer and herbicide programs, according to Underwood. Going forward, the Leawood, KS-based manufacturer will continue to focus on providing retailers with technical product support as well as growing its product portfolio.

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