Improving Nitrogen Utilization

Many farmers and growers are frustrated by the uptake and utilization of nitrogen in their crops. This process can be confusing. Even if you’re applying nitrogen fertilizers, you might notice that your plants aren’t actually using it. This process can be affected by the nitrogen cycle, leaching, and other factors. Let’s take a closer look at things that can affect nitrogen utilization, and how you can improve nitrogen utilization in your crops, and reduce losses.  We’ve updated this blog post in 2023 to give you additional information on nitrogen utilization and losses.

How to Improve Nitrogen Utilization

To understand how to improve nitrogen utilization and uptake by plants, it’s important to first understand how nitrogen losses occur. Let’s take a closer look.

How Does Nitrogen Loss Happen?

Nitrogen fertilizer is subject to losses due to volatilization, denitrification, and leaching.  The severity of loss is often dependent on soil moisture, temperature, and the placement of nitrogen in the soil.  Many liquid fertilizers contain three forms of nitrogen; urea ((NH2)2CO), ammonium (NH4+) and nitrate (NO3-).  Most plants can utilize the ammonium and nitrate forms of nitrogen, although the biological processes in the soil work to convert nitrogen to the nitrate form.  Nitrate is the most susceptible to loss through leaching.

how to improve nitrogen utilization

How to Prevent Nitrogen Losses in the Soil

High NRG-N is an advanced technology nitrogen product containing stabilized urea, ammoniacal, and nitrate nitrogen.  The proprietary Flavanol technology used to formulate High NRG-N controls the conversion of urea to ammonium thus mitigating losses from leaching and volatilization.  The result is a controlled, steady supply of nitrogen to meet season long crop needs while using less volume than with conventional fertilizer sources.  High NRG-N does not inhibit biological activity in the soil.

eNhance is a nutritional supplement that amends the urea and ammonium portions of UAN solutions to reduce the amount of ammonium converted to nitrate.  That reduces volatility and denitrification, making nitrogen available to the plant as it is needed.  eNhance also works within the plant to aid in nutrient transport, making other nutrients that enter the plant more efficient.

Nitrogen “Stabilizers”

Traditional nitrogen “stabilizers” are used to prevent nitrogen loss so their use can be considered an insurance policy.  If soil and environmental conditions are not conducive to nitrogen loss there would be no benefit to the addition of those stabilizers.  However, High NRG-N or eNhance improves the utilization of nitrogen in the plant and are not dependent on soil and environmental conditions.  Adding eNhance to UAN solution allows the user to reduce the rate of fertilizer and maintain yields, or use the full rate of fertilizer and have the potential for higher yields than achieved by UAN without eNhance.

nitrogen source effect on corn yield

Nitrification Inhibitors

In contrast, most nitrogen stabilizers on the market today inhibit the biological processes in the soil that convert nitrogen into the nitrate form.  Urease inhibitors, such as Agrotain® inhibit the enzyme urease that is produced by many soil bacteria, preventing the formation of ammonia (NH3).  Nitrification inhibitors such as N-Serve®, eNtrench®, Agrotain®Plus, and Instinct® inhibit the activity of the soil bacteria Nitrosomonas, preventing the conversion of NH4+ to NO3.

nitrification inhibitor

Unlike traditional nitrogen stabilizers that inhibit biological activity in the soil, eNhance works within the plant, fortifying the crop’s physiology to more efficiently utilize applied nitrogen.   eNhance is not a traditional nitrogen stabilizer, but as the name implies, it enhances UAN fertilizer performance.

Agrotain® and Agrotain®Plus is a registered trademark of Koch Fertilizers.

N-Serve®, eNtrench® and Instinct® are registered trademarks of Dow AgroScience.