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BASF: The 4R’s has been A Good Start but Embracing Stabilized Nitrogen Fertilizers is the Next Big Step Changeqrcode

Feb. 11, 2020

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Feb. 11, 2020
Nitrification is one of the key processes for soil nitrogen conversion. The use of nitrification inhibitors can effectively regulate the conversion of soil nitrogen, improve the yield and quality of crops, and reduce the pollution of atmospheric nitrogen and water caused by nitrogen fertilizer loss. BASF is a leader in the field of nitrification inhibitors. The DMPP nitrification inhibitor developed by BASF has the advantages of long time and small amount of nitrification inhibition, and has become a benchmark product in this field. Recently, AgroPages interviewed Dr. Markus Schmid,Head of business mgmt, N-management of BASF, on the development status and development prospects of nitrification inhibitors.
What types of nitrification inhibitors are currently on the market?
Markus: Nitrification Inhibitors are part of a sub category “Stabilized Nitrogen fertilizers (SNF)” of the big group of “Enhanced Efficiency fertilizers (EEF)”. SNF can be grouped again into two parts: i) Urea based fertilizers with urease inhibitors (UI) and ii) N fertilizers with nitrification inhibitors (NI).
Urease inhibitors slow down the hydrolysis of urea to ammonia. Ammonia is a gas that can be absorbed by the soil as ammonium. Slowing down the conversion of urea to ammonia reduces the volatile gas losses and increases the crop uptake. NI’s are products that reduce the activity of certain soil bacteria that metabolize ammonium into nitrate. Both ammonium and nitrate can be taken up by the crop as important nutrients. Nitrate is mobile in the soil and is vulnerable to being moved out of the rooting zone of crops and may leach into ground water. NI’s reduce this risk of loss by keeping the N fertilizer in the ammonium form, so that when the nitrate is available the crop has developed and its roots can capture more of the nitrate. The inhibition of these bacteria is temporary and they recover fully to maintain healthy soils. Some of the products on the market today are indicated below (not complete list).

Urease Inhibitor

Active Ingredient




Agrotain (Koch)







Limus (BASF)

Nitrification Inhibitor





AgRho NH4 Protect (Solvay)



N-Serve (Corteva)

Instinct (Corteva)


DCD + 1,2,4 Triazol

1,2,4 Triazol + 3-MP

Alzon (SKW P)

Piadin (SKW P)



Vibelsol (BASF)

Vizura (BASF)

In addition to nitrification inhibitors, what other methods can be used to improve nitrogen fertilizer utilization?
Markus: The fertilizer industry has developed a best fertilizer management practice, also known as 4Rs. The aim is to enable farmers to optimize the use efficiency of fertilizers by applying the right fertilizers, at the right rate at the right place and the right time. Nitrification and urease inhibitors fit nicely into the 4Rs. For example, urea treated with a urease inhibitor is a product, that is protected against ammonia losses and that does not need to be mechanically incorporated or washed into the soil. It achieves the same yield performance as ammonium nitrate-based fertilizers. This is a great tool for farmers, where ammonium nitrate-based fertilizers are not available. Nitrification inhibitors also complement the 4Rs. A fertilizer treated with an NI will reduced the risk of leaching of nitrate and thus increase the NUE. This allows farmers more flexibility to the timing of when to apply fertilizers. For example,  the NI product Vibelsol is designed to be used on ammonium and urea based NPK fertilzers. Vibelsol protects against nitrate leaching for 4-10 weeks. The farmer can apply the NPK when convenient rather than only thinking about the crop nutrient demand. Beyond the on the farm benefit, NI reduce Nitrous Oxide emissions by about 50%.  As you probably know, N2O long-lasting greenhouse gas that is 265 times more powerful than CO2.
What advantages does your company have in the field of nitrification inhibitors?
Markus: BASF has a long history in agriculture that actually started in the invention (Haber-Bosch process) and manufacture of nitrogen containing fertilizer.  Today our focus in crop nutrition is on EEF technologies and inoculants to support nitrogen fixation in legume crops.  BASF commits a large part of its R&D budget to agriculture to being innovation that is addressing the balance of feeding the world with technology that preserves the planet. This R&D focus has led to BASF inventing DMPP, a novel nitrification inhibitor technology and we have continued to invest in this area to bring NUE products to the market.  Given the complexity and scale of the crop nutrition industry, BASF has developed important partnerships and customers to bring these NUE products to the market. We support the portfolio of current and future products with manufacturing expertise, application technology experts as well as agronomists to ensure that products are used correctly to achieve maximum benefit. Finally, BASF recognizes the need to address climate change is striving to bring technology to the market that can make a strong impact on reducing the climate impacts of agriculture with SNF. 
How do you see the development prospects of nitrification inhibitors?
Markus: It is important to recognize where we are starting from. Today the market is in its infancy with a very small percentage of the global N products being optimized with EEF. The potential to make significant impacts on climate change and improve the nitrogen use efficiency of crop production is huge.  The 4R’s has been a good start on the journey but embracing stabilized nitrogen fertilizers is the next big step change. Like many other industries struggling through transformation, regulatory frameworks need to be established that allow for an orderly transition. We are seeing some important early steps in this regard and expect that more public pressure will require strong stewardship of nitrogen. To be clear, reducing nitrogen use rates is not possible to keep the population fed, but reducing the impact nitrogen has on the planet is possible and stabilized nitrogen fertilizers, especially nitrification inhibitors will play a key part in this. If you just look at the impact BASF and its customers have made alone over the past 20 years with DMPP, we have reduced N2O emissions to the equivalent of 20 Million tons of CO2. We are confident that with wide adoption, nitrification inhibitors will make a huge impact.
Are there new nitrification inhibitors in the development stage in your company?
Markus: We have been working on new stabilizers, be it new formulations of UI or new NI active ingredients for several years and we understand that there is demand to further improve the efficacy. We have projects that we believe will take UI and NI’s to a new level of performance. 
Source: AgroNews

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