As Growers Near Final Planting Decisions, University Experts in Survey Caution Against Cutting N Rates

ST. LOUIS, MO. – April 9, 2009 — Cutting nitrogen rates may seem penny-wise, but without the proper facts, it can be bushel-foolish according to a recent survey of university agronomists sponsored by AGROTAIN International.

While a solid majority in the survey said growers would benefit by adding a nitrogen stabilizer to their urea or UAN (liquid fertilizer), nearly all recommended that growers still maintain N rates and conduct strip trials for up to two years in order to measure yields before any rates are adjusted. One university expert in the survey advised that growers should review research that compares products in conditions specifically similar to their own and select the one that was most effective in that environment.

The survey, conducted in recent weeks, asked agronomists from Texas to Pennsylvania about planting intentions and fertilization practices among growers in their areas. Their responses provide valuable insights into improving fertilizer efficiency in a challenging economy:

• Sixty-seven percent believe growers should apply nitrogen at the same rates or higher rates as they did last season.

• Agronomists were about evenly divided on whether to apply the same rates of phosphorous and potash or to lower them. “It’s economical to cut back rates with high fertilizer prices,” one respondent said.

• Planting time is just around the corner in many parts of the nation, but futures prices and input costs have growers sitting on the fence about their plans for the 2009 season. Survey respondents predicted an increase in corn and soybean production, and a marked decline in wheat acreage this year. Although, recent USDA reports indicate a slight decline in corn and soybeans, many decisions are yet to be made.

• Nearly all of the agronomists surveyed (88 percent) agree that reducing nitrogen rates this season could result in lower yields.

“Rather than cutting rates, we recommend that growers stabilize their nitrogen with AGROTAIN to maximize yields,” explained John Hassell, research and agronomic development manager for AGROTAIN International. AGROTAIN is a proven nitrogen stabilizer with more than a decade of research behind it. “In our calculations most growers will make more profit by achieving higher yields by maximizing efficiency, rather than by cutting input costs as nitrogen is a major driver for yields. We agree with agronomists that increasing nitrogen efficiency can go a long way toward protecting yield potential. I encourage growers to follow their advice and find out for themselves how the use of a nitrogen stabilizer can provide a positive return.”


Half of the agronomists surveyed recommend documenting the ROI by applying nitrogen at the same rates as last year, adding a nitrogen stabilizer and measuring the yield increase at harvest. ”Growers should determine the likelihood of a loss of nitrogen, the cost of any product they would consider using and determine the possible results before changing what they are doing,” one agronomist said.

Regardless of a grower’s strategy, the use of a nitrogen stabilizer can prevent two costly outcomes – reduced yields caused by nitrogen losses or increased spending on nitrogen fertilizer to compensate for expected losses.

Volatilization (nitrogen loss into air) is considered the No. 1 source of nitrogen loss, although agronomists also cited losses in the soil and leaching.

“An average of 30 percent of soil-applied nitrogen can be lost to the environment,” said Hassell. “In a year when growers are working hard to reduce input costs and maximize yields, they simply can’t afford to risk that kind of loss. When you pencil out the benefits over the years of a nitrogen stabilizer, the results can be surprising…the significant yield difference in one bad year for nitrogen loss can pay for years of using a nitrogen stabilizer.”

Hassel say that is what makes the use of a nitrogen stabilizer such as AGROTAIN such a sound investment. It can significantly reduce nitrogen losses from urea and UAN (liquid fertilizer) applications. Half of the agronomists surveyed said that at least 75 percent growers in their area are aware of the benefits of nitrogen stabilizers for control of nitrogen loss.

“From the other agronomists around the state that I have spoken with, AGROTAIN makes nitrogen last another two or three weeks,” said one agronomist. “Growers are aware of it but need to understand more about the return on investment.”

The survey, sponsored by AGROTAIN, included agronomists from the University of Illinois, University of Kentucky, Mississippi State University, Oklahoma State

University, Penn State University, Texas A&M University and University of Minnesota.

AGROTAIN International’s AGROTAIN®, AGROTAIN PLUS® and SUPERU® brands were developed for use with urea and urea-containing fertilizers. Growers are urged to ask their retailers about how AGROTAIN products can help make their nitrogen applications more efficient in the 2009 season. They can also learn about the yield and environmental benefits of the practice at