Did You Know?
More than 90 percent of the 140 million tons of urea manufactured annually is utilized as a fertilizer for agriculture purposes.
Urea fertilizer (CO(NH2)2) is sold in a crystalline organic form. This fertilizer is highly soluble in water, and percolates rapidly into the soil. Urea contains NPK (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) in the ratio of 46-0-0 in its dry state, and thus, the most preferred type of nitrogen-based fertilizer.
This fertilizer is made from carbon dioxide and synthetic anhydrous ammonia (NH), and sold in the form of prills, pellets, granules, crystals, flakes, and liquids. This Gardenerdy article discusses some of the demerits of urea, as well as why it is more effective than other types of nitrogen fertilizers.
The cost per pound of nitrogen of urea is comparatively cheaper than that of other nitrogen-based fertilizers, because its cost of production is lesser. Secondly, its high analysis makes the product less heavier and more concentrated than other fertilizers. Which is why, the freight, storage, and handling cost of urea fertilizer is also lower than other nitrogen fertilizers. Being cheaper and effective, urea fertilizer is a viable option for boosting the growth of plants and agricultural output.
Higher Nutrient Density
As mentioned earlier, urea has higher nitrogen content―46 percent―which is more than other nitrogenous fertilizers such as ammonium nitrate that has NPK ratings of (34-0-0) and ammonium sulfate with (21-0-0).
Little to No Fire Hazard
Unlike other nitrogenous fertilizers, urea fertilizers pose little to no fire hazard. However, this fertilizer must be stored below room temperature so as to prevent it from decomposing and losing its effectiveness and nutrients.
Urea is a quick-release fertilizer, and provides most nitrogen to plants within 20-40 days from application, a time-frame that cannot be competed with by other nitrogen-based fertilizers. However, the downside of being a quick-release fertilizer is that the urea applied gets depleted faster, and may require more frequent reapplication as compared to other fertilizers.
When urea is spread on the surface of the soil, it reacts rapidly with moisture which causes the enzyme urease to covert this fertilizer into ammonium bicarbonate. This entire process takes 48 hours, after which, the ammonia begins to convert into gaseous ammonia. If not prevented, much of the ammonia can escape into the air or volatilize. The loss of 50-70 percent of nitrogen through volatilization will lend the application of urea fertilizer almost useless, and thus, must be avoided by trapping the urea within the soil rather than merely spreading or applying it on the surface.
Increased Acidity of the Soil
Urea fertilizer tends to acidify the soil more than other nitrogen fertilizers. The reason being, it produces ammonia in higher concentration, which in turn, causes the soil to become more acidic. Increased acidification, gradually, steals the soil of its fertility and ability to produce healthy yield for the coming seasons.
High Burn Potential
If used in more than the recommended concentration, urea fertilizer has the potential to burn the plants and kill them. Therefore, this fertilizer must be used in limited amounts and not reapplied often.
Urea fertilizers absorb moisture and are known to be highly soluble in water. Therefore, it is imperative that the urea be sealed in airtight packages, so as to prevent moisture from reacting with this organic compound.
Unstable at Room Temperature
Urea tends to decompose more rapidly at room temperature than other solid nitrogenous fertilizers, thereby resulting in loss of quantity and quality.
Weighing the aforementioned pros and cons of urea, it comes as no surprise as to why this fertilizer is becoming increasingly popular throughout the world.