Nitrogen Efficiency A Must For 2016 ROI
No matter how dangerously far row crop commodity prices plummet in the coming months and years ahead, one factor will always ensure at the very least a basic level of need for nitrogen stabilization products: Mother Nature.
“In general, when we think about managing nitrogen in an agricultural system — it’s a leaky system so there’s always efficiencies to be gained,” says Verdesian vice president of marketing and technical development Dr. Ryan Bond. “And there’s always different ways of managing nitrogen. They can do it culturally, they can use cover crops or crop rotations, and of course there are nitrogen stabilization technologies available out there.”
Dr. Bond explains that most nitrogen stabilizer formulations are focused on the crops that mandate the most nitrogen consumption, and that overall grower knowledge of nitrogen’s various interactions with the soil and air and water, and the consequences of such, is growing.
“Corn is a big consumer of nitrogen, and cotton is another big consumer of nitrogen. People look at soybeans as a scavenger crop, but they consume up to 300 pounds of nitrogen per year if you’re going for a 60 bushel crop,” he says. “I think growers are becoming more and more astute in managing nitrogen, but there’s always different tools in the tool box to evaluate.”
A Full Toolbox
Ron Restum, VP of North American sales, Koch Agronomic Services (KAS), says that 2015 was another solid year sales volume-wise for the AGROTAIN line. So much, in fact, that the company recently announced its first AGROTAIN formulation plant outside of North America to focus on international markets.
“Additionally, our N-TEGRATION technology will allow manufacturers to differentiate themselves by producing high-quality, value-added nitrogen fertilizers, and our SUPERU fertilizer continues to take efficiency and productivity to new levels,” Restum says. “It’s the highest concentration of nitrogen available in a finished, granular fertilizer product and is scientifically proven to protect against all three forms of nitrogen loss.”
KAS is feeling particularly buoyed for future growth following its recent acquisition of Mendel Biological Solutions, an outfit which Restum says continues to show promise in the biologicals sector, an expected growth driver for the industry worldwide going forward.
One element of uncertainty that both KAS and growers face, according to Restum, is the weather’s impact on nitrogen availability.
“The longer the period between application and plant uptake, the higher the risk of nitrogen loss,” he says. “KAS products also allow producers to change application methods to increase speed without sacrificing nitrogen use efficiency.
“In corn, for example, knifing in UAN to a depth of 3 inches at V6 to V8 is very effective, but time consuming. Many of our customers have found that broadcasting urea treated with AGROTAIN stabilizer (to prevent ammonia volatilization) is as effective, yet much faster than, injecting UAN. “While not every application requires a nitrogen stabilizer,” Restum continues. “We believe farmers demanding higher production efficiency and reduced losses to the environment will cause this sector to continue to grow.”
Asmus Farm Supply’s Spencer Weir, CCA agronomist and plant nutrition department manager, predicts that 2016 will be a big year in the Iowa market for a particular Dow AgroSciences patented chemistry Weir characterizes the active ingredient nitrapyrin (N-Serve, Instinct II) as “one of the most effective nitrogen stabilizer tools” on the market.
“As margins narrow for the 2016 crop year growers are going to be forced to focus on all of their inputs,” says Weir in a recent Agronomy Update video for Asmus Farm Supply. “One of those inputs — and one of the most important — is nitrogen. Why? Because we need to ensure that the nitrogen is going to be there when the crop needs it, we need to protect the environment and we need to raise yield.”
According to Weir, nitrapyrin is an organic compound and soil bactericide that functions as an inhibitor of nitrosomonas bacteria.
“Nitrapyrin works by controlling the nitrosomonas bacteria which convert ammonium to nitrite (nitrogen) which ultimately becomes nitrate (nitrogen),” he explains. “The corn plant can uptake both nitrate as well as ammonium (nitrogen). When nitrogen is in the nitrate form it is more prone to leaching into groundwater. This leads to environmental concerns as well as denitrification, both of which do not put nitrogen in your corn plant when it needs it.”
Weir also reports that, according to the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, growers are finding on average a 6% yield increase when using a nitrapyrin-based product.
Projecting Out 2016
At a recent event hosted by Dow AgroSciences (now DowDuPont), market development specialist Dr. Johnathan Huff discussed how the company’s 40 years of commitment to nitrogen stabilization technology is paying dividends for retailers and growers today.
N-Serve and other nitrogen stabilizers, such as the company’s Instinct brand, are taking on increased market importance as growers across much of the Midwest struggle to cope with excessive amounts of rainfall.
“Nitrogen will be a critical factor this year,” said Huff. “Last fall, we didn’t’ see a lot of anhydrous ammonia applications in the ‘I’ states [Iowa, Indiana and Illinois]. Then we got to spring and folks finally got some of it into the ground — and then the rains started and never stopped. It’s been the same for growers in other states, too, such as Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio.”
In addition to not staying in the ground to be available to the crops, added Huff, the excessive rainfall in the Midwest this year has likely caused much of this applied fertilizer to leach out of the soil and potentially runoff into nearby waterways. “This nitrogen run-off has become a huge issue nationally, and not just for agriculture,” said Huff. “Many growers are very worried about nitrogen leaching and they are asking ‘how can we better manage this?’
Part of the answer might lay in using N-Serve and Instinct, he claims. “Our own research has shown that these products can help out the environmental concerns regarding nitrogen run-off by reducing soil leaching by 16%,” said Huff. “Also, when using these brands, we have found that greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by 51%.”