Different Types of Nitrogen?

05/09/2022

Yes, there are different types of nitrogen, and understanding the differences can be profound when when it comes to fertility amendments used in farming.

Two primary types of nitrogen present in fertilizer are:
- ammoniacal nitrogen, and
- nitrate nitrogen

The most profound point to be understood about the difference between ammoniacal nitrogen and nitrate nitrogen are the effects they have on plant growth and reproduction:
1) Nitrate nitrogens promote growth of plant tissue in plants
2) Ammoniacal nitrogens encourage crop fruiting

So by knowing which type of nitrogen you're applying to a crop, you can have an effect on crop production.  For example, by simply adding a very, very, small amount of household ammonia to water ("aqua ammonia" or "aqueous ammonia") and applying it as a foliar spray on a crop's leaves, you can promote fruiting.

The effects the two types have on plants is interesting when you consider that nitrogen when oxygen is also present - or "nitrogen in an oxidized state" - becomes nitrate.  In an anaerobic environment (where oxygen is not present), nitrate becomes ammonia.  So plant growth is induced when nitrogen can "breathe" oxygen, and crop production comes when less oxygen is there for the nitrogen.

We'll try to post more on this topic in the future, especially regarding how to make this more practical.

Two quick suggestions:
- if you do add one type of nitrogen, it's almost always wise to add a small amount of the other...so things don't get "out of whack"
- it's always safest to start small, again to keep soil fertility from getting out of balance.  Two or three small doses gives you more control.