Frequently Asked Questions: Nitrogen Stabilizers

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Max Your Knowledge. See the Proof.

We’ve answered the most common questions regarding how N-Serve® and Instinct® nitrogen stabilizers work to maximize nitrogen and the proof behind the technology. If you have any other questions about your specific needs and situation, please contact your local retailer. 

1. When should N-Serve® and Instinct® nitrogen stabilizers be applied?

Whether you apply fertilizer in spring, in fall or in sidedress applications, N-Serve® and Instinct® nitrogen stabilizers can help you get the most from your investment by keeping nitrogen ready and accessible.

Spring applications: Early spring rains drive nitrogen lower into the soil through leaching, putting it out of the reach of corn roots. Without protection, corn crops can lose out on the nitrogen they need during critical periods of uptake, resulting in potential yield loss. Applying Instinct with spring urea, UAN and liquid manure applications, or N-Serve with spring anhydrous ammonia applications, mitigates the risk of loss from spring rain.

Fall applications: Time and weather are just a couple of the variables that drive farmers’ decisions to apply nitrogen in the fall. By nature, all nitrogen sources are mobile and susceptible to loss. Applying N-Serve with fall-applied anhydrous ammonia or Instinct with fall-applied swine manure, you can protect nitrogen in the soil over the winter so it is available in spring.

Sidedress applications: Nitrogen management is a season-long practice, not a one-time event. Whether applying nitrogen early or split-applying with sidedress applications, you want a full return on your investment. Weather is one of the major challenges of ;sidedressing nitrogen. Rain before application makes it tough to get across the field, while rain after application leaves nitrogen vulnerable to leaching and denitrification. Instinct and N-Serve nitrogen maximizers reduce nitrogen loss so it is available in the soil longer and ready when it’s needed, maximizing yield potential at harvest.

2. How Do N-Serve® and Instinct® Nitrogen Stabilizers Impact Soil Bacteria?

N-Serve® and Instinct® nitrogen stabilizers are not bactericides.1

PROOF: The active ingredient in N-Serve and Instinct is bacteriostatic, meaning that it slows, not kills, the movement of bacteria in the soil. Instinct and N-Serve inhibit nitrification, meaning they are selective for one form of bacteria — Nitrosomonas bacteria — which converts ammonium nitrogen to nitrate nitrogen.

The active ingredient in N-Serve and Instinct is shown to inhibit nitrification for up to 40 days.1

Nitrate nitrogen is the form most susceptible to loss into groundwater through leaching or into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas through denitrification. Slowing this conversion allows more time for crops to consume nitrogen, reducing the amount lost into the environment.

1Rodgers, G. A., and J. Ashworth. 1982. Bacteriostatic action of nitrification inhibitors. Can J Microbiol. 28: 1093–1100.

3. Do N-Serve® and Instinct® Nitrogen Stabilizers Affect My Application Equipment?

N-Serve® and Instinct® nitrogen stabilizers are compatible with equipment for simplified application.

PROOF: Instinct is less corrosive than the fertilizer applied to crops.

  • When using recommended seals and apparatus, N-Serve and Instinct are compatible with application equipment.
  • When applied with anhydrous ammonia, N-Serve mitigates the threat of corrosion to application materials.
  • When applied with urea, UAN or liquid manure, Instinct is compatible with application equipment when correct label rates and appropriate equipment are used.
  • Seeing rust in screens isn’t a result of corrosion but rather N-Serve cleaning already present rust from the tank.
  • Follow the recommended best practices from the U.S. Department of Transportation to improve the safety of anhydrous ammonia tanks, including:
    • Inject N-Serve at the time of application rather than premixing it in with anhydrous ammonia.2
    • Avoid pinhole leaks by ensuring welds are made only on clean, dry metal.2

2U.S. Department of Transportation (USDA). 2013. Testing and Recommended Practices to Improve Nurse Tank Safety: Phase II. USDA, Washington, DC. 

4. Can I Use Instinct® Nitrogen Stabilizer With Urea? 

The newest formulation of Instinct® nitrogen stabilizer offers simplified impregnation onto urea. 

PROOF: The latest formulation of Instinct, Instinct HL nitrogen stabilizer, allows for simplified blending of Instinct with urea. Instinct HL delivers the same protection against nitrogen loss with one-third less use rate per acre and can easily blend with different types of blenders for simplified application.

5. Do N-Serve® and Instinct® Nitrogen Stabilizers Act the Same as Pesticides? 

N-Serve® and Instinct® nitrogen stabilizers are registered as nitrification inhibitors with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

PROOF: N-Serve and Instinct are the only non-DCD products registered with the EPA as nitrification inhibitors.3 N-Serve and Instinct are selective for Nitrosomonas bacteria.

  • When applied, N-Serve and Instinct slow the conversion of ammonium to nitrate caused by Nitrosomonas bacteria to keep the most effective form of nitrogen available longer for crops to use.

3U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2005. Reregistration Eligibility Decision (RED) Document for Nitrapyrin.

6. How Does DCD Work Compared With N-Serve® and Instinct® Nitrogen Stabilizers?

N-Serve® and Instinct® nitrogen stabilizers are the most effective way to maximize nitrogen below ground.

PROOF: It takes more than 10 times the rate of dicyandiamide (DCD) to be as effective as the standard rate of nitrapyrin.4

  • Currently, most DCD manufacturers don’t always reveal how much DCD active ingredient is present in their current formulations, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the customer to truly know how much they are applying.
  • DCD is water-soluble and can leach away with the first significant rainfall event, in contrast to nitrapyrin, which remains in the root zone continually protecting your nitrogen from losses.5
  • Nitrapyrin is superior to DCD as a nitrification inhibitor, delaying nitrification longer and, once nitrification begins, maintaining a slower nitrification rate.6

4Watanabe, T. 2006. Influence of 2-chloro-6 (trichloromethyl) pyridine and dicyandiamide on nitrous oxide emission under different soil conditions. Soil Sci Plant Nutr. 52: 226–232. 
5McCarty, G. W., and J. M. Bremner. 1989. Laboratory evaluation of dicyandiamide as a soil nitrification inhibitor. Comm Soil Sci Plan. 20: 2049–2065.
6Bronson, K. F., J. T. Touchton, and R. D. Hauck. 1989. Decomposition rate of dicyandiamide and nitrification inhibition. Comm Soil Sci Plant Anal. 20: 2067–2078. 

7. Why Are N-Serve® and Instinct® Nitrogen Stabilizers Called Nitrogen Maximizers?

Because N-Serve® and Instinct® nitrogen stabilizers do more than stabilize nitrogen — they maximize the availability of the most effective form of nitrogen for your crops. 

PROOF: A study from North Dakota State University adds to research showing the active ingredient in N-Serve and Instinct inhibits nitrification — the most effective way to protect all forms of applied nitrogen. And we know that protecting your nitrogen helps you maximize your yield potential at harvest. 

On average, N-Serve and Instinct increase revenue by $21 per acre.* 

*Based on 2015 Dow AgroSciences field trials resulting in an average 7 bu./A yield increase at $3/bu. 

8. Are There Benefits to Switching to Liquid Manure as a Nitrogen Source in Fall? 

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. 

PROOF: University of Minnesota research showed that adding Instinct® nitrogen stabilizer to fall-applied swine manure increased corn grain yield 10 to 12 bu./A compared with not using Instinct, when averaged across manure applications timings. November applications of manure with Instinct resulted in similar yield as fall-applied anhydrous ammonia with N-Serve® nitrogen stabilizer.7

7Vetsch, J., and J. Lamb. 2011. Applying Instinct™ as a nitrogen stabilizer for fall applied manure.  

9. Why Would I Consider Using a Nitrogen Maximizer on My Smaller Operation? 

No matter the size of your farm, fertilizer is your largest input investment each season — and nitrogen is vital for corn growth. It’s important to not only protect this valuable input but also extend it so it’s available during critical growth stages. N-Serve® and Instinct® nitrogen stabilizers are proven to extend nitrogen availability six to eight weeks after application. 

10. Can You Impregnate Instinct® on Urea?

When applied with urea, Instinct® nitrogen stabilizer can blend easily with a drying agent in a horizontal and vertical blender for simplified application. Using Instinct with urea is critical to protect nitrogen. For example, if you apply urea on May 1, corn will emerge about one to two weeks later. By the V10 phase, nitrogen has been in the soil for eight weeks. Without Instinct extending nitrogen availability, there isn’t much left in the soil at the point when corn needs it. 

Instinct can also be applied with UAN and liquid manure. N-Serve® nitrogen stabilizer can be applied with anhydrous ammonia. 

11. My Area Doesn’t Get a Lot of Rainfall. Is My Nitrogen Still at Risk? 

Yes. Approximately five weeks after a nitrogen application, only 20 percent is 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 with N-Serve® and Instinct® nitrogen stabilizers. 

12. Why Can’t I Just Put on More Nitrogen? 

Adding excess nitrogen doesn’t mean an increase in yield or profit. Keeping the nitrogen in place longer with N-Serve® or Instinct® nitrogen stabilizers maximizes each nitrogen application, reducing the loss of nitrates into groundwater and producing maximum profit come harvest. Not only are N-Serve and Instinct the most effective way to protect your nitrogen but also they’re the only non-DCD nitrification inhibitors registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 



Do not fall-apply anhydrous ammonia south of Highway 16 in the state of Illinois.

™® Instinct and Instinct NXTGEN are 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. Always read and follow label directions.