Top Tips to Improve Nitrogen Efficiency
Minimize nitrogen loss and maximize yield potential this spring

Wednesday, March, 2, 2016 8:00 AM EST

INDIANAPOLIS — Last year, excessive rainfall drenched the Midwest, soaking cornfields and leaving soil vulnerable to increased nitrogen loss. 

Improving nitrogen efficiency should be top of mind as growers evaluate last season and prepare to plant corn this spring. From nitrogen application timing to using proven technology to protect this valuable asset, consider these tips to maximize spring nitrogen applications.

  1. Timing matters. For healthy growth, nitrogen should be applied as close as possible to the point when the crop needs it most, says Eric Scherder, Ph.D., field scientist, Dow AgroSciences. Corn takes up a significant amount of nutrients between the V5 and V8 growth stages, or up to 75 days after emergence. It’s vital to preserve nitrogen by using tools such as a nitrogen stabilizer so corn has the nutrients it needs during these periods of maximum crop uptake, Scherder says.

    “We can’t limit the nitrogen corn needs at the front end and expect to have maximum yield come harvest,” he says. “Using a nitrogen stabilizer maintains the largest portion of nitrogen in the root zone.”

    Scherder recommends growers follow the 4R program this spring — a concept to use the right fertilizer source, at the right rate, at the right time, with the right placement. The 4R framework takes an innovative approach that provides educational tools, advocacy support and implementation recommendations for crop nutrient stewardship.

  2. Weigh the loss factors. Timely fertilizer applications are important; however, even the perfect time can be derailed by weather. Early spring rains drive nitrogen lower into soil profiles, out of the reach of corn roots through nitrate leaching, Scherder says.
  3. “If a grower has experienced nitrogen loss and didn’t stabilize a given application, the grower may have applied the right rate, at the right time, and at the right place. Yet without stabilization, nitrogen was subjected to leaching, and yield and nitrogen loss occurred,” Scherder says. “Using a nitrogen stabilizer such as N-Serve or Instinct II acts as an insurance policy for your nitrogen so it stays where it needs to be for corn to use.”

    The type and level of nitrogen loss is dependent on temperature, weather and the environment. Even if rain is not in the forecast, nitrogen loss can occur all year due to leaching and denitrification.

    “For example, in a silt loam or sandy silt loam, nitrate movement down lower into the soil is the key loss mechanism,” Scherder says. “In heavier soils such as clay and clay loams, downward movement is less, yet denitrification is typically a key driver.”

  4. Pick a proven product. With a cluttered market of fertilizer efficiency products, be sure to research which products are proven to work, says Tiffany Dean, nitrogen stabilizers product manager, Dow AgroSciences.

    Nitrapyrin, the active ingredient in N-Serve® and Instinct® II nitrogen stabilizers, has been rigorously tested by third-party experts for more than four decades. Instinct II and N-Serve have been proven to provide an average 6-bushel-per-acre increase compared with untreated acres by slowing the nitrification process.* Slowing the nitrification process keeps more nitrogen available to crops during the critical period of nutrient uptake.

    “Growers rely on our technology to work more efficiently, effectively and profitably,” Dean says. “Instinct II and N-Serve represent two options that fit in a variety of fertilizer programs and have a positive impact on growers’ ROI at the end of the year by reducing leaching and denitrification.”

    N-Serve can be applied with anhydrous ammonia. Instinct II protects nitrogen when applied with UAN, urea and liquid manure. Both products have been proven to perform in fall or spring.

For more information on improving nitrogen efficiency this spring, visit

*Average 6-bushel yield return in spring stabilization vs. nontreated from 2008-14 across 100-plus trials.

About Dow AgroSciences
Dow AgroSciences discovers, develops, and brings to market crop protection and plant biotechnology solutions for the growing world. Based in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, Dow AgroSciences is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company and had annual global sales of $6.4 billion in 2015. Learn more at Follow Dow AgroSciences on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Google+, or subscribe to our News Release RSS Feed.

Sarah Woodhurst
Bader Rutter

Tiffany Dean
Dow AgroSciences


®Trademark of The Dow Chemical Company (“Dow”) or an affiliated company of Dow. Instinct II is not registered for sale or use in all states. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is registered for sale or use in your state. Do not fall-apply anhydrous ammonia south of Highway 16 in the state of Illinois. Always read and follow label directions.