Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for all forms of life and is of fundamental importance for the healthy growth of plants. However, when lost to the soil, water, and air, nitrogen in agriculture can lead to considerable environmental problems.
When fertilizer is transformed in the soil in various ways, several forms of nitrogen such as ammonia, nitrous oxide, nitrogen gas and/or nitrate are lost to the air or groundwater.
Ammonia is a key component of smog; it binds with other pollutants and particles, maintaining them in air layers at or around ground level. As a nitrogen-containing gas, ammonia can be carried over great distances by the wind. Rain precipitation then often injects ammonia into natural ecosystems where it acts as a nitrogen fertilizer and acidifies the soil, which may have undesired effects on biodiversity.
Nitrate is highly mobile in the soil and can be effectively translocated in the soil profile through diffusion and surface water movements. After heavy rainfall, nitrate can leach out of the soil profile and accumulate in groundwater. Nitrate is the predominant form of nitrogen for plants, which is why nitrate in surface water bodies stimulates water plant and algae growth.
Nitrous oxide occurs during nitrification as well as when nitrate exists in the soil under oxygen-poor conditions (denitrification). Next to carbon dioxide and methane, nitrous oxide is one of the most impactful greenhouse gases because its global warming potential is nearly 300 times higher than that of CO2. Even small amounts of nitrous oxide have a negative climate impact.
The excess of nutrients in the environment is a major source of air, soil, and water pollution, which negatively impacts biodiversity and climate. Directly related to nitrogen management, the EU Commission’s European Green Deal has set goals to reduce nutrient losses by at least 50% by 2030. BASF’s nitrogen stabilizer technologies are integral tools toward BASF Agricultural Solution’s sustainability commitment to reduce up to 30% CO2 emissions per ton of crop.
BASF’s nitrogen management portfolio of urease and nitrification inhibitors offers a solution for the reduction of nitrogen losses, and therefore, increasing nitrogen use efficiency.
A urease inhibitor is specifically designed to reduce ammonia volatilization losses in urea-containing fertilizers. It is ideal in conditions where ammonia volatilization most commonly occurs, such as:
- High temperature, little to no rainfall, and high wind speed
- High soil pH levels
- No-till conditions with high organic matter content on top of the soils
Urease inhibitors, such as Limus® by BASF, can reduce ammonia (NH3) losses from urea-containing fertilizers by up to 98%. On average, 70% of ammonia1 and 22.5% of nitrous oxide2 are reduced when using Limus®. The two active ingredients in Limus® block, for a certain period of time, the urease enzymes that are responsible for the conversion of urea into ammonia and carbon dioxide. Consequently, it protects the nitrogen.
¹ Bittman et al. 2014
² Grados et al. 2022
Nitrification inhibitors such as Vibelsol® and Vizura® can reduce, on average, nitrate leaching by 47% and nitrous oxide emissions by 50%. The addition of Vibelsol® to urea and/or ammonium nitrogen-based fertilizers and the addition of Vizura® to slurry slows down for a certain period of time the conversion rate of ammonium to nitrate considerably. The active ingredient, DMPP, keeps the level of ammonium stable for a longer time by inhibiting the action of the specific bacteria. This prevents the nitrogen from leaching out of the soil and reduces N2O emissions.
Find out which of our nitrogen use efficiency products are available in your country.