Nitram (AN) or Urea? No contest, says Defra research, AN is the best choice!
It is a proven fact that ammonia can be lost by volatilisation following urea application. This reduces the amount of crop available Nitrogen on average by 24%; but worst case scenario this could be 58%.
Traditionally, it was thought that if you got Urea on early, you’ll be alright. But will you?
The weather dependency of urea adds an element of risk and greater management time in order to harness any efficiency.
This could be a false economy as many will not have fully considered the agronomic issues involved, particularly urea’s in-effectiveness in the drier and warmer weather we can see in spring, its poor performance in higher protein achievement, the requirement for more N applied as urea to achieve yield potential. It also adds a question mark over where Sulphur applications fit in the system.
David Beck CF Fertilisers Market Analyst
Remember the challenging spring of 2017?
In the protracted dry spring of 2017, many growers who applied urea in the middle of April had granules still on the ground three weeks later. Lack of rain meant Nitrogen was lost to the atmosphere. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that crops treated with urea looked hungry and in need of extra N throughout the growing season.
Sean Sparling, Independent Agronomist, quoted in CPM Magazine Aug 2017
Independent Research: Defra NT26
Result from three years of Defra-funded research has blown the ‘it will be ok’ theory away. The Defra NT26 programme looked at alternative Nitrogen sources for UK farming and included extensive field evaluation by a group of eminent researchers.
Key findings were; AN remains the best option for UK agriculture and early application of urea did not guarantee reduced ammonia losses.
In cereals the losses ranged from 2-43% of the total urea N applied.
In grassland losses were even more dramatic. There was a 58% loss of ammonia from urea applied to a clay grassland soil in Devon on 2 March and, at a nearby sandy soil site, 43% was lost from an even earlier application on the 28th February.
So should you just apply more?
Indeed the researches worked out that to maintain yields and quality, the optimum N rate when using urea would have to be, on average, 20% higher for Ammonium Nitrate. Risking:
- loss of yield,
- negative environmental impact,
- breaching NVZ regulations,
- negating any cost saving!
The biggest challenge of using urea under climatic conditions is that it simply not as reliable as Nitram® (AN).
Predicting N losses from urea is very difficult and depends on factors which are largely outside farmers’ control. In short using urea is a much riskier option.
Ammonia losses are a key concern, not only because of the reduction in crop available Nitrogen, but also because ammonia contributes to acid rain and over enrichment of sensitive habitats (eg heathlands).
Applying 20% more fertiliser not only costs more financially, it also increases agriculture’s impact on the environment.
Clive Deeley- Regional Manager, Eastern Region
NT26 Other Conclusions
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