Editor’s note: This article is part of CropLife’s new series called Retail Remedies. In Retail Remedies content, we offer solutions and strategies for ag retailers to present to their grower-customers to make dealing with all the uncertainty of the 2022 planting season more manageable. This will include stories on product segments — like the nitrogen stabilizers feature below — that can help growers stretch their hard-earned dollars in this time of higher crop input costs.
Over the past few growing seasons, agricultural insiders have seen the demand for nitrogen (N) stabilizers continues to expand. Indeed, in CropLife’s® annual Buying Intentions Survey, 62% of ag retail respondents expected to spend more on N stabilizers for their grower-customers in 2022 than they did for the 2021 growing season.
“As growers become more attuned to their inputs and look to capitalize on grain prices and maximize their yields, we anticipate an increase in the use of N stabilizers in 2022,” says Eric Vogel, Product Marketing Manager, Koch Agronomic Services (KAS). “N stabilizers protect against losses due to unpredictable weather conditions and other nitrogen loss factors. These solutions also allow a grower to get the most out of their nitrogen investment and optimize the nutrient use efficiency.”
Furthermore, this investment in nitrogen-based fertilizers has become much more cost intensive during 2022 than in previous years, say market watchers. According to Josh Linville, Director of Fertilizer for StoneX, the prices for various nitrogen-based fertilizers have skyrocketed over the past 15 months or so. For instance, urea prices have climbed 345% over this timeframe, to $810 per ton. Likewise, UAN prices have jumped 380% to $562 per ton and anhydrous ammonia (NH3) costs are up 384% to $1,350 per ton.
Adds Justin Dikeman, U.S. Portfolio Marketing Lead, Nitrogen Stabilizers, at Corteva Agriscience, this has made the role for N stabilizers even more important in today’s agricultural world. “Nitrogen is already one of the most expensive inputs for farmers each season and it’s critical for maximum yield potential,” says Dikeman. “Farmers are currently paying, roughly, triple what they would have paid for anhydrous ammonia in 2020 and more than double what they would have paid for UAN and urea. They cannot afford to lose that investment.”
Josh Griffin, Product Line Manager, at Verdesian, agrees with this assessment. “With record high nitrogen prices, protecting every unit of nitrogen is more crucial than it has ever been,” says Griffin. “To put it this way, if you built a brand-new custom-built home in an environment where there is a potential for extreme weather events, you’d be silly not to insure it right? The same can be said for nitrogen. Applying nitrogen without a N stabilizer is a recipe for nitrogen loss. Why would you flush your hard-earned dollars down the drain?”
In this kind of higher-than-normal fertilizer pricing environment, says William Wynn, U.S. Product Manager, Nitrogen Stabilizers, at Corteva Agriscience, some grower-customers might look to cut back on their product costs as a result, including N stabilizers. But he contends this would be a mistake.
“One of those challenges is the extremely high cost of nitrogen fertilizer,” says Wynn. “As previously mentioned, when input prices go up, farmers can be tempted to make cuts. However, retailers understand that a proven N stabilizer is not a good area to make a cut.”
Reviewing the Options
When to comes to N stabilizer options for 2022, there are several to pick from. According to Wynn, Corteva offers both N-Serve and Instinct NXTGEN, each powered by Optinyte technology.
“Instinct NXTGEN N stabilizer is an enhanced formulation of Instinct N stabilizer,” he says. “It has a lower use rate and lower viscosity for simpler blending, with urea, for example, and better overall handling during colder, early spring applications. Instinct NXTGEN will aid farmers in 2022 by providing protection of urea, UAN, and liquid manure. It works belowground to protect against leaching and denitrification, extending nitrogen availability up to eight weeks. For those who use anhydrous ammonia, we have N-Serve N stabilizer, which is backed by more than 1,000 field trials, university research and has been on the market for 45 years.”
At KAS, one of the N stabilizer products is ANVOL. “ANVOL features the Koch-patented active ingredient Duromide, designed to deliver longer-lasting protection against nitrogen loss due to volatilization,” says Vogel. “Duromide works in tandem with the active ingredient N-(n-butyl) thiophosphoric triamide (NBPT), improving performance across a range of soil conditions. With optimal amounts of two active ingredients working together, ANVOL’s extended window of protection provides a higher return-on-investment for growers while reducing environmental impact.”
Another N stabilizer utilizing Duromide is N-Fixx XLR from Helena Agri Enterprises. “If nitrogen in urea and UAN is left unprotected, it can be lost through ammonia volatilization,” says Mike Powell, Senior Brand Manager of Helena BioScience Products. “Our N-Fixx line of products has been addressing this problem for over 10 years. With N-Fixx XLR, we combined the urease inhibitor/nitrogen stabilizer NBPT with our FlowTech Formulation Technology to help prevent ammonia volatilization, which increases nitrogen efficiency, while improving application and performance with fertilizer. It’s designed to slow down the hydrolysis process that causes ammonia volatilization, helping to preserve the grower’s nitrogen investment. Now, we’re introducing N-Fixx Duro to take that nitrogen stabilization a step further. The difference maker in the new N-Fixx Duro formulation is Duromide, a FIFRA- and AAPFCO-approved urease inhibitor for urea nitrogen stabilization. The combination of the NBPT and Duromide goes to work faster than either active alone, providing better early protection and longer control than formulations with the active NBPT alone. Duromide also improves performance in different soil environments and varying soil pH levels. Bottom line, the two actives work together to extend the window of nitrogen protection beyond what we’ve been able to do in the past.”
Also, on the new products front among N stabilizers is Trident from Verdesian. “Trident protects against the three forms of Nitrogen loss (volatilization, nitrification, and denitrification),” says Griffin. “Trident offers both above and below ground protection due to the NBPT, DCD, and co-polymer active ingredients thus making more nitrogen available to the plant. Trident can be used on both urea- and UAN-treated acres.”
For added versatility, Trident comes in three unique versions, he adds. “One version is geared towards acres that run the risk of more aboveground (volatilization) loss; another version is geared towards acres where belowground nitrogen loss is of higher concern (denitrification and nitrification); and another product with equal amount of active ingredients for acres that need both above and belowground protection,” says Griffin.
The Future View
Beyond the current growing season, all of the N stabilizer manufacturers CropLife spoke with foresee a bright future for the segment. “N stabilizers are important every year to keep nitrogen in place for the crop to use and to keep it from being lost in the environment,” says Helena’s Powell. “The conditions we see in the market today just put an even brighter spotlight on the importance of these products.”
KAS’ Vogel agrees, pointing to the suspected lower usage rate N stabilizers currently have in the marketplace. “We anticipate seeing continued growth beyond 2022,” he says. “We believe over half of the nitrogen being applied in U.S. is still unprotected, which creates an excellent opportunity to educate on the value of N stabilizers and for substantial growth. KAS continues to conduct agronomy research trials proving the general value of N stabilizers, specifically with our solutions, in anhydrous ammonia, urea, and UAN, across the U.S. and globally.”
In addition, says Corteva’s Dikeman, the industry should continue to follow developments on the fertilizer prices as the current growing season moves into the next one. “The most important issue to keep an eye on right now is the cost of nitrogen fertilizer,” he says. “We simply cannot afford to ignore the high prices farmers are paying. Because we can’t predict exactly when this market volatility will subside, it’s imperative we help farmers protect that nitrogen investment in order to achieve higher yield potential.”