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Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge: 2016 Greener Reaction Conditions Award

Dow AgroSciences LLC


Instinct® Technology - Making Nitrogen Fertilizers Work More Effectively for Farmers and the Planet

  • Reduces fertilizer nitrate leaching to ground and surface waters and atmospheric nitrous oxide emissions.
    • Nutrient pollution is one of America’s most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems.
  • Retains applied nitrogen longer in the plants’ root zone, optimizing crop utilization and yield, and reducing nutrient run-off.
  • In 2014 this new technology:
    • added about 50 million bushels of additional corn equating to over $205 million in additional production revenue for U.S. corn growers; and
    • reduced carbon dioxide emissions by about 664,000 metric tons.

Summary of Technology: 

The demand for higher crop yields and agricultural productivity is ever increasing, and so are concerns for the negative impacts on the environment caused by agricultural activities. Human activities related to farming account for a significant percentage of nitrate in ground and surface waters as well as nitrous oxide emissions. An estimated 75 percent of all nitrous oxide emissions, for example, come from agricultural activities such as applied nitrogen fertilizers and manures.

Crop genetics and precision application methods have improved the efficiency of applied nitrogen fertilizers, but losses to the environment are still significant after soil bacteria quickly convert nitrogen from the applied urea or ammoniacal form to nitrate. In the nitrate form, nitrogen fertilizer is susceptible to losses through leaching or as emissions in the form of nitrous oxide. Furthermore, nitrate fertilizer that leaches out of a plant’s root zone is no longer available to provide nutrients to the crop.

Scientists at The Dow Chemical Company discovered a powerful nitrification inhibitor that can inhibit soil bacteria from rapidly converting nitrogen in the ammoniacal form to nitrate, thereby retaining more nitrogen in the more stable ammoniacal form. By keeping nitrogen in the root zone for a longer period during the season, Dow’s nitrogen stabilizers improve Nitrogen Use Efficiency and reduce nitrogen loss through leaching and nitrous oxide emissions. N-Serve® was the first commercial product introduced by Dow in 1974, but it is only suitable for use with anhydrous ammonia fertilizer applications due to the limitations of its physical-chemical properties.

In 2010, Dow AgroSciences launched a novel, aqueous microcapsule suspension product, Instinct®. This patented technology can be conveniently used with other commonly used nitrogen fertilizer sources, enabling adoption of the product for multiple crops in the U.S. and around the world. As an aqueous suspension of a microencapsulated active ingredient, Instinct®, also provides additional environmental benefit by significantly reducing the amount of petroleum-based solvents used per treated acre.

In less than five years, acres treated with stabilized nitrogen have grown more than five-fold. In 2014 alone, based on calculated adoption of Instinct® in the U.S., it is estimated that use of the technology reduced carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by about 664,000 metric tons and increased U.S. corn production by about 50 million bushels, equating to about $205,500,000 additional production revenue for U.S. corn growers.

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