Debunking Nitrogen Stabilization Myths

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Fertilizer spreading

Considering a nitrogen stabilizer but not sure if it’s worth the investment? We debunked some of the most common nitrogen management and stabilization myths, so you can make the best choice for your operation.

Myth: I can just add more nitrogen later in the season instead of using a stabilizer.  

Fact: Adding excess nitrogen later in the season does not automatically equate to an increase in yield or profit, because there is no guarantee the nutrient will be there when the corn needs it. No matter how much nitrogen you apply, or the timing of application, nitrogen will be vulnerable to loss from leaching, denitrification and volatilization. And with high fertilizer prices, the cost of putting more nitrogen on the field can quickly add up. 

Fact: N-Serve® and Instinct NXTGEN® nitrogen stabilizers are proven to increase yield by 5.2% when used with spring nitrogen applications and by 7% when used with fall applications.1

Myth: Nitrogen stabilizers tie up nitrogen, making it unavailable for corn to use. 

Fact: Nitrogen stabilizers do not “tie up” nitrogen. Instead, they protect the nutrient from loss, helping keep it in the root zone for when corn needs it most.  

“Stabilizers reduce the loss of nitrogen by slowing down the bacteria that converts ammonium to nitrate,” explains Clark Smith, product manager, Nutrient Maximizers and row-crop fungicides, Corteva Agriscience. “By allowing nitrogen to remain in the ammonium form, leaching and denitrification are significantly reduced because the nitrate form is much more susceptible to these forms of loss than the ammonium form.”  

Myth: Nitrogen stabilizers kill soil bacteria.

Fact: Optinyte® technology (nitrapyrin), the active ingredient in N-Serve and Instinct NXTGEN, is bacteriostatic, meaning that it slows, not kills, the movement of bacteria in the soil.  

Myth: I don’t need to use a stabilizer with spring or sidedress applications.

Fact: Nitrogen is vulnerable to loss no matter when it’s applied. Heavy spring rains and warming temperatures are some of the biggest drivers of leaching and denitrification.

A proven nitrogen stabilizer protects against these losses, helping to ensure you get the best return on your nitrogen investment — no matter when you apply. 

Myth: I haven’t received much rainfall so I don’t need to worry about nitrogen loss. 

It’s important to remember that leaching is not the only type of nitrogen loss — and several factors besides rain can cause loss.

Fact: Approximately five weeks after a nitrogen application, only 20% of nitrogen is left in the most efficient ammonium form. Corn requires 6 to 7 pounds of nitrogen per acre per day 40 days after emergence — making it essential to extend nitrogen in all field conditions. 

Myth: Liquid manure does not benefit from nitrogen stabilization. 

Fact: Manure is becoming an increasingly important fertilizer type across Midwestern cornfields in fall and spring. But just like other nitrogen sources, it’s susceptible to loss through leaching and denitrification.  

Fact: University of Minnesota research showed that adding a nitrogen stabilizer to fall-applied swine manure increased corn grain yield 10 to 12 bu./A compared with not using a nitrogen stabilizer, when averaged across manure application timings.2

Myth: All nitrogen stabilizers are the same. 

Fact: It takes more than 10 times the rate of dicyandiamide (DCD) to be as effective as the standard rate of Optinyte® technology (nitrapyrin), the active ingredient in N-Serve and Instinct NXTGEN.3

Fact: DCD is water-soluble, can leach away with the first significant rainfall event and in contrast to nitrapyrin, which remains in the root zone continually protecting your nitrogen from losses.4

Get more information on Optinyte® technology vs. DCD here.

Myth: I used a nitrogen stabilizer once and I didn’t see the benefit. There’s no reason to try one again. 

Fact: Nitrogen is not always the limiting factor when it comes to yield. A proven stabilizer acts as an insurance policy for your nitrogen application. That’s why it’s important, when choosing a stabilizer, to go with one that has proof backing the claims.

“The benefits of nitrogen stabilization are vast, but it can be harder to see the direct impact in fields when compared with using an herbicide, fungicide or insecticide,” Smith says. “That’s why our nitrogen stabilizers are backed by more than 1,000 field trials and university research experiments.”

Reach out to your local Corteva Agriscience representative to find nitrogen management solutions for your operation. And if you’ll be at Commodity Classic this year, we encourage you to attend the Learning Center session on nitrogen management. Learn more at

1Vetsch, J., and J. Lamb. 2011. Applying Instinct® as a nitrogen stabilizer for fall applied manure. University of Minnesota.

2Wolt, J. D. 2004. A meta-evaluation of nitrapyrin agronomic and environmental effectiveness with emphasis on corn production in the Midwestern USA. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems. 69: 23–41.

3Watanabe, T. 2006. Influence of 2-chloro-6 (trichloromethyl) pyridine and dicyandiamide on nitrous oxide emission under different soil conditions. Soil Sci Plant Nutr. 52(2): 226–232.

4McCarty, G. W., and J. M. Bremner. 1989. Laboratory evaluation of dicyandiamide as a soil nitrification inhibitor. Comm Soil Sci Plan. 20(19-20): 2049–2065.

Instinct NXTGEN® 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. Optinyte® is a registered active ingredient. Always read and follow label directions. 


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