Urea fertilizer, also known as carbamide, is the most important nitrogenous fertilizer. It is a white crystalline organic chemical compound containing about 46 percent nitrogen. It is a waste product formed naturally by metabolizing protein in humans as well as other mammals, amphibians and some fish. Synthetic urea is produced commercially from ammonia and carbon dioxide. Urea is widely used in the agriculture sector both as a fertilizer and animal feed additive, which makes the production of urea considerably high in comparison to other fertilizers. In the United States alone, approximately one million pounds of urea is produced every year.

Manufacture Process

Urea was first discovered by a French scientist, named Hillaire Rouelle in 1773. But, synthetic urea was started to produce in 1828, about 55 years after its discovery. Currently, urea is manufactured industrially by the dehydration of ammonium carbamate in a process involving elevated temperature and pressure. Normally, a high pressure reactor is used within which all these reactions are carried out.

Advantages of Urea Fertilizer

Urea has the highest nitrogen content, equal to 46 percent. This percentage is much higher than other nitrogenous fertilizers available in the market.

The cost of production of urea is relatively low since carbon dioxide required for its manufacture is obtained from crude naphtha.

Urea in not subject to fire or explosion hazards, and hence there is no risk in the storage of urea.

Urea can be used for all types of crops and soils. After its assimilation by plants, urea leaves behind only carbon dioxide in the soil through the interaction of nitrifying bacteria. This carbon dioxide does not harm the soil.

Disadvantages of Urea Fertilizer

Urea is very soluble in water, and hygroscopic water (hygroscopic water creates a thin layer surrounding individual soil particles, which makes water unavailable to plants), and hence requires better packaging quality.

It is not as stable as other solid nitrogenous fertilizers. Urea decomposes even at room temperatures, particularly in a humid atmosphere releasing ammonia and carbon dioxide. The formation of ammonia and carbon dioxide results in serious loss.

If urea contains impurities more than 2 percent, it cannot be used as a fertilizer, since the impurities are toxic to certain crops, particularly citrus.

Soil Application and Placement

Urea should be applied at the time of sowing. It should not come in contact with the seeds. It also can be applied as a top dressing.
Since urea is highly concentrated, it should be used in combination with earth or sand before its application.
It should not be applied when the soil contains free water or is likely to remain wet for three or four days after application.


How does Urea operates in the soil?
When applied as a foliar spray or even as granular spread above the soil layer, urea gets dissolved simultaneously owing to its reaction with air and water.

When properly applied, urea results in effective crop yields as it is an excellent source of nitrogen and nitrogenous compounds.

Once applied to the soil, urea undergoes vital transformations and breaks up into ammonium form and this total process is dependent on soil moisture.

As soon as urea dissolves in the soil, it forms around it a zoning layer of high pH and ammonia concentration turning the soil to be acidic and toxic at the same level. Though most of the soil types kill the toxicity by making it neutral.

Taking into effect all these effects it is highly advisable to broadcast urea immediately into the soil and should be kept at a distance from the seeds.W

Keep an alert while applying so as to urea fertilizer should not touch the seeds. And especially the corn seeds should never be placed with urea and its components.


Blending Urea with Other Fertilizers

Urea is readily blended with monoammonium phosphate or diammonium phosphate. But, urea must not be mixed with any superphosphate unless applied immediately after blending, because urea reacts with superphosphate liberating water molecules. This will produce a damp material that is hard to store and apply.

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