Avoid Nitrogen Losses

Avoid nitrogen losses

Increasing nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) can be achieved by using the right product and nutrient combination, fertilizing at the right time and by avoiding nutrient losses. Nitrogen is a very mobile element and can be lost by several pathways. Losses into the air is volatilisation and losses into deeper soil horizons and ground water is leaching. Both pathways cause economic losses and in addition environmental problems. Nitrogen losses are influenced by the nitrogen form (nitrate, ammonium or urea) as well as by soil properties (pH, texture, temperature, moisture, cation exchange capacity, organic matter) and fertilization management (timing and dose). 


Ammonia volatilisation is the process whereby ammonium (NH4) turns into its gaseous form ammonia (NH3) and is released into the atmosphere. It occurs at the surface of the soil from ammonia, urea or livestock effluent.

Nitrogen loss through ammonia volatilisation is closely related to soil conditions (pH, exchange capacity, porosity, water content etc.) and local weather conditions (rainfall, temperature, wind speed, humidity of the atmosphere, etc.). The chemical make-up of the mineral fertilizer (urea and ammonia) and its form (liquid or solid) are important parameters that determine ammonia volatilisation.

Involved physical and chemical processes:

  • Quantity of ammonia (NH4) in the soil
  • The presence of NH4 at the soil surface. The transfer of ammonia into deeper soil layers reduces volatilisation (e.g. incorporation of fertilizer into the soil).
  • Physical and chemical properties of the soil such as pH, temperature, and cation exchange capacity (CEC). Hydrolysis of urea temporarily increases the pH of the soil and thus ammonia volatilization.
  • The transfer into the atmosphere depends mainly on wind speed
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The form of nitrogen is important

Volatilisation can affect all fertilizers containing urea and ammonia. Urea and urea ammonium nitrate solution (UAN) are highly sensitive to ammonia volatilisation. This is because the hydrolysis of urea to ammonium causes a temporally increase of the soil´s pH and therefore high NH3 losses even on acidic soils. 

Ammonia volatilisation adversely affects the environment and the efficiency of the fertilizers used. It is therefore important to select the right form of nitrogen. Fertilizers containing nitrate such as those from LAT Nitrogen are more effective.

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Leaching (timing and dose)


The nitrogen requirements of the plant depends on the species, variety and yield expectation. Adapted fertilization strikes a balance between the nitrogen demand of the crop on the one hand and the nitrogen supply from the soil on the other. Nitrogen fertilization is needed when the supply from the soil does not meet the demand of the crop. 

For effective plant nutrition, nutrients must be available when the demand of the crop is high. Matching fertilizer application to plant requirements is a key success factor in enhancing the efficiency of fertilization.

Matching nitrogen availability precisely to current plant needs and actual soil nutrient supply maximises yield, minimises environmental impact and optimises profit. Splitting nitrogen applications is best agricultural practice under most conditions. LAT Nitrogen offers fertilizers with a predictable release of plant-available nitrogen, which facilitates efficient use. Moreover, LAT Nitrogen developed and distributes the nitrogen management tool N-Pilot® which helps farmers to assess the crop nitrogen demand in order to adjust fertilization correspondingly. Nitrate-based fertilizers and the N-Pilot® are our solutions for your success.

Timing and dose

Fertilizer application during the growing season with high nutrient uptake is required for facilitates an efficient nutrient use. In order to reduce phosphate fixation leaching of nitrogen, sulphates and potassium, it is crucial that nutrients are applied just when they are needed.

After a long period of cold and damp winter, nutrient availability in the soil is low, while the needs of the crops are high. Fertilization is crucial, because the soil can only provide a limited amount of nutrients when mineralisation of organic matter is slow at low temperatures. 

During stem elongation, wheat takes up 1kg P2O5 per hectare per day, and over 1.5 kg N per hectare per day. NPK fertilization at the start of the growth period allows rapid vegetative development, to guarantee yield and quality 

Applying the right dose is essential for being efficient.

Our digital service tools help you to calculate the right dose, maximising your economic efficiency.

  • NutriGuide® calculates the nutrient demand of crops and identifies the best matching fertilizer products.
    NutriGuide® can also be used to find the best products for an entire crop rotation and balances phosphorus and potassium fertilization with the offtake by the yields. 
  • N-Pilot® evaluates the actual nitrogen fertilization requirement based on the crop uptake of nitrogen in the field. Such an assessment in the field adjusts N fertilization to actual needs. 

An integrated and optimized application of nutrients considers nutrients in the soil, organic matter, biological nitrogen fixation, and crop residues.