Protecting Nitrogen Above and Below Ground

It doesn’t matter whether farmers lived through drought conditions or wet soils in 2021. Farmers need to take inventory of their nitrogen for the upcoming season. Both too little and too much water can impact soil chemistry and affect many nutrients’ ability to be available to crops. Ryan Hageman is Product Manager with CHS Agronomy, and he says nitrogen plays a critical role in plant health.

“For example, nitrogen is a significant component of the amino acids and the proteins and enzymes that help roots absorb nutrients and water. It also makes up a large part of the chlorophyll found in plants, which is used to make sugars that feed the plant. Nitrogen impacts a plants growth regulation as well as the development of proteins present in a crops’ grains, fruits, and seeds. Too little nitrogen and crops may not thrive, and too much nitrogen can harm the plants and the environment. Because certain conditions are necessary to facilitate a root’s ability to uptake nutrients that are present in the soil, crops can experience nutrient deficiencies when growing conditions are poor. Very acidic, or alkaline, conditions, extreme temperatures, drought, and heavy rains can all influence the nutrient availability in the soil, and its subsequent absorption by the crops.”

Hageman talks about the effects extreme environmental conditions have on nitrogen residual.

“After a year of drought conditions, the soil will tend to retain more nitrogen due to less nitrogen uptake by the crop and reduced amount of nitrogen loss through leaching or denitrification. Some of this residual nitrogen will be available for the next crop; it is still at risk of being lost as a soil moisture changes. Wet soil conditions and nitrogen loss often do go hand in hand, but when wet soil conditions are paired with cooler temperatures, that loss is reduced by slow nitrification and denitrification rates. However, that doesn’t always mean that residual nitrogen is safe. Soils with high drainage rates are most susceptible to leaching, which is a main form of N loss. The nitrogen in the soils is typically in the nitrate form and easily leached through high rainfall events. This leaves the fertilizer that is applied in the nitrate form or converted to nitrate to be easily lost in the spring.”

He says as much as 95 percent of a grower’s nitrogen investment this spring is at risk of loss, which means potential yield and profit loss too. After it’s applied, nitrogen-stealing threats move in quickly.

“N-butyl thiophosphoric triamide, commonly known as NBPT, is a urease inhibitor that protects against a nitrogen loss through the volatilization stage of the nitrogen cycle. The use of NBPT slows down the process of the urease enzymes breaking down the nitrogen and volatilizing it into the atmosphere. When NBPT stabilizers are blended with urea, it can provide above-ground protection of the applied nitrogen and protect your fertilizer investment. Nitrogen loss also can happen through the Denitrification and leaching processes of this nitrogen cycle that take place below the ground. Dicyandiamide, or DCD, a nitrification inhibitor, can be used to shut down or block the Nitrosomonas bacteria activity in the soil responsible for the conversion of ammonium to nitrate and then to nitrate, the unstable source of the nitrogen for the crop.”

CHS offers N-Edge Pro to make sure your applied nitrogen is protected during the 2022 growing season.

“N-Edge Pro is an NBPT and a DCD combination nitrogen stabilizer that provides protection against volatility, leaching, and denitrification in both above and below-ground applications. The technology reduces nitrogen loss by inhibiting urease enzymes from breaking down the urea and slowing the conversion of urea to ammonia gas. N-Edge Pro also helps keep nitrogen available longer in the root zone. By slowing the Denitrification and leaching processes, N-Edge Pro will provide a greater opportunity for healthy crops all season long, thus leading plants to reach their maximized yield potential.”

To learn more about N-Edge Pro or other nitrogen management solutions, visit

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