ESN or Agrotain — Which to Use When

For whatever reason, there are a few agronomy topics that never seem to fully get sorted out — seeding by thousand kernel weight, the right time to spray for wheat midge and what the difference between ESN and Agrotain is, for example. Let’s tackle the last on the list. Here’s a quick reminder of what the products are and how to best use them.

First, the two are similar in that they both are used to minimize nitrogen losses and are both applied to N fertilizer. That’s where the similarities end, however. ESN Smart Nitrogen, an Agrium Advanced Technologies product, is a polymer coating added to urea. It turns regular N fertilizer into slow release N, as N is released as the polymer coating breaks down. ESN is a great fit for winter wheat production, as you can treat a portion (or all) of the N you put down in the fall, where it will remain safely snug in the polymer until the spring when the crop needs it. For spring seeded crops, using ESN means that a portion of the N will be released later in the season, closer to when the crop actually needs it. Losses via leaching, volatilization or denitrificaiton of ESN-treated N are minimized or eliminated until then.

Agrotain is a urease inhibitor added either to urea or to UAN. Urease is a naturally occurring soil enzyme that converts urea to ammonia. Ammonia can then be lost to the air (volatilization). Agrotain inhibits this process, a significant factor of N loss immediately after application, buying time before rainfall or irrigation moves the N into the soil and natural processes convert the urea/UAN into plant available forms of N. There is also a second product, Agrotain Plus, that contains a second product, one that protects against denitrification and leaching losses.

Both ESN and Agrotain come at a cost per pound of fertilizer, but both can and do protect against costly N losses. Which you use when depends on your timing, management style or plan (fall vs. spring seeding or fertilizer application) and the weather.

See more on winter wheat fertilizer tips here. For more on winter wheat production, click here.


RealAgriculture Agronomy Team

A team effort of RealAgriculture videographers and editorial staff to make sure that you have the latest in agronomy information for your farm.


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Shaun Haney

This is definitely something that tends to get people confused. Its really interesting to hear from farmers on which product they see the most benefit in. With fertilizer costs now, some of these products could be good solutions to help manage your nutrient package.

Tanya Manary

Those are not your only options. Agro-culture Liquid
Fertilizers also has both a slow release Nitrogen product (High NRG – N) and a Nitrogen
stabilizer (eNhance) product that can be mixed in with 28% to increase N
uptake. Straight 28% has an equivalency of 3lbs of N per US Gallon, but add
eNhance at a rate of 9Litres / Ton OR 2L/Acre and increase your N uptake and see a yield increase.


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