Aug , 2022, Volume : 3 Article : 2
Nano Urea: A step towards India’s self-reliance in Nitrogen fertilizer production
Author : Chethan Babu, R.T, Praveen, B. R, Magan Singh
Agriculture production is mainly dependent on the use of chemical fertilizers; nitrogen fertilizers share about 64 % of total fertilizer consumption. Unscientific use of same causes many ecological problems and lowers nitrogen use efficiency. To overcome the negative effects of conventional fertilizers, IFFCO has developed world’s first liquid nano urea, which has particle size between 20-50 nm with 4 % nitrogen. These peculiar characteristics of nano urea make it more useful than the other fertilizers. It is non-toxic to the crops and its application as liquid formulation at critical stages at right time with its controlled delivery of nutrients in the plant system makes it more advantageous than conventional fertilizers.
Modern agriculture is heavily supported by use of high rates of chemical fertilizers, which contribute over 40 % to our agriculture production (Stewart and Roberts, 2012). Nitrogen shares about 64 % of total fertilizers out of which urea shares >82 % of total nitrogen fertilizers. With growing population and with race of more production per unit area, we are losing the soil fertility and the sustainability. However, indiscriminate and imbalanced application has environmental and ecological consequences and lower nitrogen use efficiency (30-40 %) is also affecting the sustainability of our agriculture production systems. It is therefore imperative that we use our resources wisely to alleviate environmental stress by boosting the efficiency of our inputs through various new technologies and research. There is also a need for agriculture to produce more output with less input. To address this scenario, the agriculture dependent countries have to adopt more advanced technologies, labour saving practices and other methods. Among most recent technologies in the field of agriculture, nanotechnology has a prominent position in remodelling agriculture and food production to fulfil the demands in an efficient and economical way. The term ‘nano’ derived from the Greek word ‘dwarf’ it refers to one billionth of a metre. It has been conclusively proved that fertiliser contributes 35-40 % of the production of any crop and maintaining agricultural productivity in a country like India without fertiliser input is nearly impossible. Nitrogen is the "kingpin" of the nutritional kingdom, and its management is a major concern around the world, particularly in India. Nitrogen is a crucial component of amino acids, enzymes, genetic information (DNA-RNA), photosynthetic pigments (chlorophyll), and energy transfer components (ATP-ADP) in plants. A healthy crop nutritionally requires about 2-5 % of nitrogen of its dry weight in its foliage tissues to maintain its physiological process (Torres-Olivar et al., 2014). Nano urea has dynamic advantage of size, shape, form, concentration and surface area. Foliar application of nano urea at critical crop growth stages successfully fulfils its nitrogen demand for higher crop productivity. It is required to produce more with less without damaging the environment. Application of nano urea ensures healthy environment, higher crop yields and farmer’s prosperity. Nano urea promises less cost and more profit.
Nano urea is a source of nitrogen, a major essential nutrient required for proper growth and development of a crop. It has been developed for the first time in the world at Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Limited (IFFCO)- Nano Biotechnology Research centre Kalol, Gujarat through indigenous proprietary patented technology. Liquid nano urea developed by IFFCO is a world’s first nano fertilizers which has been notified by Fertilizer Control Order (FCO, 1985), Government of India. Nano urea contains 4.0 percent total nitrogen (w/v). Size of the nano nitrogen particle varies from 20-50 nm. These particles are uniformly dispersed in water. Because of its small size (20-50 nm) and higher use efficiency (> 80 %) nano urea increases availability of nitrogen to the plant.
2. Certification of nano urea
IFFCO nano urea is a product approved both nationally and internationally. The IFFCO nano urea complies with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development`s (OECD) testing guidelines (TGs) and the Department of Biotechnology`s (Govt. of India) requirements for testing nano agri-inputs and food products. National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories-accredited and Good Laboratory Practice-certified laboratories have independently evaluated and verified nano urea for bio-efficacy, biosafety, toxicity and environmental compatibility. All current national and international guidelines for nanotechnology or nanoscale agri-inputs are met by IFFCO nano fertilisers. Nano-fertilizers, such as Nano Urea, have been included in Schedule VII of the FCO 1985 and their manufacturing has been undertaken by IFFCO so that farmers can profit from the gift of nanotechnology. In terms of `ATMANIRBHAR BHARAT`, it will be a step toward self-reliance.
3. Major characteristics of Nano Urea
v Nano urea contains 4.0 % total nitrogen by weight which is evenly dispersed in liquid water.
v Average physical size of nano form nitrogen particles is in the range of 30- 50 nm.
v Nitrogen present in nano urea is in available form and effectively meets the crop nutritional requirement.
v It has 10000 times more surface area to volume ratio than conventional urea granules
4. Benefits over conventional urea
v Use of nano urea leads to reduction in the 50 % of conventional urea application without affecting crop yield.
v Nutrient efficiency of nano urea is more as one bottle of nano urea (500 mL volume) is equivalent to one bag (45 kg) of urea.
v Nano urea successfully meets crop nitrogen requirements at different growth stages, increases the effective tillers or branches, leaf photosynthesis and increases root biomass.
v Increase in crop productivity and nano urea is cheaper than the conventional urea thus reduction in input cost leads to increase in farmers income.
v It helps in rapid absorption by the foliage thus improves the translocation and increase in crop nutritional content and quality.
v Eco friendly product as it conserves the soil, air and water quality thus, reducing the global warming.
v It is easy for transportation and carrying.
v Nano urea as higher nitrogen use efficiency than conventional urea as the size of one nano particle of urea is 55,000 times smaller than one granule of urea.
v Nontoxic to human beings, animals and pollinators etc.
5. Application rate and method
v Mix 2-4 ml of nano urea liquid in one litre of clean water and spray on crop foliage uniformly as per crop growth stage and requirement during morning or evening hours.
v For best results spray twice - first at active tillering / branching stage (25-30 days after germination or 15-20 days after transplanting) and second at 10 days before flowering.
6. Application instructions
v Shake well the bottle before use
v Spray with generally available agrochemical sprayers with nozzles that create fine vapours and can properly wet leaves such as flat fan or cut nozzle.
v Spray during morning or evening hours. If rains occur within 12 hours of the spray of nano urea, it is advised that spray should be repeated.
v If required, nano urea can easily be mixed with bio stimulants, 100 % water soluble fertilisers and agrochemicals but it is always advised to go for jar test before mixing and spraying.
v For better result nano urea should be used within 2 years from the date of its manufacturing.
7. Mode of action
v When liquid formulation of nano urea is sprayed on leaves initially these ultra-small particles of nano urea get absorbed easily and also enters through stomata, hydathodes and other openings
v It is easily distributed through vascular tissue phloem from source to sink (leaves to assimilatory parts) inside the plant as per need
v Translocated nitrogen is metabolically assimilated as proteins, amino acids, nucleic acids etc. as per the plant’s requirement
v As controlled delivery system of ultra-nano particles facilitates unutilized nitrogen is stored in the plant vacuole and is slowly released during life cycle of plant for its proper growth and development
8. Safety and precautions
v Nano-urea is easy to use and is safe for the user, safe for flora and fauna and safe for the environment.
v Nano urea is suitable for application as a source of nitrogen for almost all the crops for achieving balanced and efficient crop nutrition for higher crop productivity.
v Nano urea is non-toxic; however, it is recommended to use face mask and gloves while spraying on the crop.
9. How much quantity of urea would it replace?
The use of liquid nano urea in crop production, which was developed and manufactured locally, would help us to reduce imports and achieve self-sufficiency. India, the world`s largest urea importer. Nano Urea successfully meets crop nitrogen requirements, increases the effective tillers or branches, rate of photosynthesis and increases root biomass. IFFCO has begun installation of a 14-crore-bottle yearly production capacity in phase I, which will be increased to 18-crore-bottles in phase II by 2023. By 2023, these 32 million bottles are expected to replace 13.7 million tonnes of granular urea (The print media, 2021).
Agriculture employs approximately 70 % of our population and any shortage or increase in the price of vital inputs such as fertilisers will have a negative influence on our rural sector`s overall economic performance. India has been importing urea for decades to make up for a supply gap, but launching of nano urea helps to bridge the supply gap to meet national food security and reduce the reliance on imports; besides it also reduces its usage to make environment safe.
IFFCO (2021). Available at https://www.iffco.in/en/nano-urea-liquid-fertilizer. Accessed on 21.06.2021
The print media https://theprint.in/india/what-is-nano-urea-indias-21st-century-product-aiming-to-revolutionise-world-agriculture/673151/, Accessed on 21-06-2021.
Stewart, W. M. and Roberts, T. L. (2012). Food security and the role of fertilizer in supporting it. Procedia Engineering, 46, pp.76-82.
Torres-Olivar, V., Villegas-Torres, O. G., Dominguez-Patino, M. L., Sotelo-Nava, H., Rodriguez-Martinez, A., Melgoza-Aleman, R. M., Valdez-Aguilar, L. A. and Alia-Tejacal, I. (2014). Role of nitrogen and nutrients in crop nutrition. Journal of Agricultural Science and Technology, 4(1B), p.29