In 2004, Nature Safe proudly introduced an enhanced product (21-3-7) that combined Nature Safe with UFLEXXô from Agrotain International. This combination proved to be an excellent performer allowing for a quick green-up and extended performance at a cost effective price. But some competitors of UFLEXXô have spread some misinformation. Specifically, they have boldly proclaimed that the Stabilized Nitrogenô technology is harmful to soil microbial populations and to avoid use of these products. Whether this be an intentional attempt to derail the fastest growing nitrogen technology, or simply ignorance, it needs to be cleared up. We want turf managers to use these products with confidence, and we want distributors to support them as well.

UFLEXX and UMAXX are urea that have been manufactured to include two enzyme inhibitors that result in significantly improved nitrogen efficiency. The first is a urease inhibitor that stops nitrogen loss from ammonia volatility for up to two weeks. The second, and the source of confusion, is a nitrification inhibitor that blocks the enzyme responsible for the conversion of ammonium nitrogen to nitrate nitrogen. Thus, nitrogen can not be further transformed to nitrate nitrogen. The key here is that plants efficiently use ammonium nitrogen, but because it is a cation, or has a positive electrostatic charge, the soil can hold the rest in reserve. The result is reduced leaching for a better environmental profile.

Could it be that the misinformation could simply be the result of confusion between two different compounds that are very different in mode of action, but with similar result? Probably, we think. Agrotain uses a carbon-nitrogen compound called Dicyandiamide as the nitrification inhibitor. This compound is also used in PVC pipe, color-fast dyes, computer chips, and other innocuous uses. The only other nitrification inhibitor used in the country is Nitrapyrin, marketed by Dow Chemical as N-Serve. It is used in conjunction with anhydrous ammonia applications. Nitrapyrin is registered as a pesticide by the EPA because the mode of action is to kill nitrifying bacteria. Dicyandiamide is not registered as a pesticide by EPA, or any other regulatory agency anywhere in the world. That is because it has been determined that the mode of action is not the same as nitrapyrin. Dicyandiamide does not work by killing soil microbes. Rather, it is an enzyme inhibitor. Specifically, it inhibits the enzyme Ammonium Mono Oxygenase, or AMO. This is the enzyme responsible for the oxidation of ammonium (NH4+) to nitrate (NO2-), or the first step in nitrification. Further oxidation of nitrite nitrogen to nitrate (NO3-) occurs from there. You might be interested to know that products like Primo, Dimension, ProStar, and many others, are classified as enzyme inhibitors as well.

We think it’s a shame that competitors to UFLEXX and UMAXX have to resort to spreading misinformation in order to try to slow the continued growth of the Stabilized Nitrogen technology. Of course they, like you, are entitled to their opinion. For what it’s worth, we have yet to hear feedback from the field that customers are seeing more disease or thatch after years of using this technology. But, do yourself a favor next time your hear, “Don’t use that stuff, it will kill all of your microbes,” ask for proof. We stepped up and provided documented proof. They haven’t.

While all of this information is available on the web at at www.stabilizednitrogen.com, it is reasonable for someone to ask for additional proof. We agreed and proceeded to ask a certified biochemical laboratory to test UMAXX, untreated urea, and a methylene urea product to see if any exhibited any either bactericidal or bacteria inhibitory properties against three specific soil microbes known to be beneficial to turfgrass. The study concluded that none of the products inhibited any of the soil microbes, and the populations of microbes were not killed. The research summary and the entire study are posted on our web site for all to see and download. Further, the study protocol and results were reviewed by industry experts. They agreed that the study was properly conducted and agreed with the results. “There appears to be no inhibitory affect of either tested compound on the growth of three typical soil organisms,” said Dr. Mark Coyne, Associate Professor, Soil Microbiology, University of Kentucky. This comment was after Dr. Coyne’s review of the entire study data and protocol.