Several nitrogen fertilizers are available for growers who follow organic or sustainable growing methods. Here we examine the benefits of two products: Explorer plant-derived nitrogen and Chilean nitrate.

Explorer 16-0-0

Explorer™ comes in 44 lbs. bags or 3.5-gallon buckets and tank sizes from 80, 170 & 275 gallons.

Explorer is a quick release organic nitrogen fertilizer available in a 16% dry powder and 10% liquid form. Produced from soybeans and approved for organic use nationwide, this organic nitrogen source is soluble and stable in all water conditions, and remains neutral in charge, making it an excellent source to sink without limitations.

Also included in Explorer is a natural carbon source. For most soils, particularly when stressed, carbon is the limiting factor. Furthermore, it does not carry any burn risks normally associated with foliar applications – it can remain on the leaf surface and does not require higher volumes of water for safety.

Trial comparison against 4-0-2 (left) and Explorer (right)

Because of the current shortage of soy, it is important to inquire about the amino acid content and logistic availability of the material when comparing Explorer to comparable products. Using trial and yield data, compare the rate per acre and L-amino acid content to determine nitrogen use efficiency.

Due to the unique way Ferticell hydrolyzes soy protein, Explorer contains the purest, highest-quality amino acid content in any organic nitrogen source.


In addition to this, Explorer provides other benefits:

  • Is stable to be used as an additive in all fertility programs
  • Promotes the biomass of all soils and ensures proper uptake and assimilation of other fertilizers
  • Guarantees a predictable release in stable soil temperatures, with very little risk of leaching in excessive rain events
  • No restrictions from USDA, USDOT, and exempt from FMLA


Chilean nitrate 16-0-0

Despite its solubility and availability, Chilean nitrate has several roadblocks and concerns for use in agriculture. The product has a salt index of 100 and contains ingredients such as sodium chloride, sodium sulfate, and potassium chloride, which make up less than 1% of the overall weight. It is known

that salt stress is one of the most significant degraders of soil health and modern agricultural productivity. It is always advisable to consider and calculate the interference with osmotic regulation of water and nutrients prior to applying Chilean nitrate.

In contrast to Explorer at 50% carbon content, Chilean nitrate 16-0-0 causes significant carbon losses because it has no recognizable C:N profile. The side effect to this is additional carbon may be needed to maintain a proper C:N ratio. The accumulation of sodium if not flushed or accounted for can also alter the availability of water, resulting in sodic soils that displace other cations. If this occurs, calculated applications of Calcium 880Plus™ or ProCal™ will help leach out sodic soils.

Limitations Associated with Chilean nitrate:

  • Raises the pH of the soil
  • The Salt Index is 100
  • USDA limits total N program to 20%
  • USDOT has listed this material as a hazardous material increasing shipping costs
  • High dilution rate requirements = excess water use

Nitrites gassed off by Chilean nitrate are also considered an air quality contaminant that can deplete other minerals in soils with high water requirements, causing salinity stress. Nitrites, the largest human source of greenhouse gases from agriculture, were measured at over 75% in 2019 and contributed to 7% of US greenhouse gas emissions. For over a century, nitrites can remain in the atmosphere and cause 300x more global warming than carbon dioxide.

Additionally, Chilean nitrate can burn foliage when not applied with high dilution rates which uses excess water and can increase soil pH. Growers may need to monitor wells to ensure that groundwater is not polluted by nitrates, according to your local county and state regulations.

Contact Ferticell to Learn More about our Quick Release Organic Nitrogen Fertilizer

Our goal at Ferticell is to build soil health by promoting the use of sustainable, low-salt fertilizers. Ferticell can help you learn more about integrating a clean, sustainable organic nitrogen source into your program without limiting factors and help you develop the best fertilizer program for your needs. If you would like more information, find a store near you, or if you just have a question, call us at (480) 361-1300.

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