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Urea deep placement technology

Urea is the nitrogenous fertilizers widely used by millions of rice farmers across the globe both forirrigated and rain-fed rice. Many farmers still practice broadcasting method of urea application to fertilize paddy plants standing in flooded water.

This practice is highly inefficient – about two-thirds of the fertilizer is lost as greenhouse gas or becomes a groundwater pollutant. A technology called Fertilizer deep placement (FDP) is followed in Bangladesh, which ensures 40 % more efficiency of urea utilization. IFDC a public international organization addressing critical issues such as international food security, has joined hands with Bangladesh Ministry of Agriculture and the Rice Research Institute and the private sector (small private entrepreneurs) to develop FDP technology based upon urea supergranules (when used with urea fertilizer, FDP is called UDP – urea deep placement). Urea deep Placement is a simple but a very effective technology which involves the placement of 1-3 grams of urea supergranules or briquettes at a 7-10 centimeters (cm) soil depth shortly after the paddy is transplanted. UDP increases nitrogen use efficiency because most of the urea nitrogen stays in the soil, close to the plant roots where it is absorbed more effectively. The benefits of the technology are significant – a 20 percent increase in crop yields and a 40 percent decrease in nitrogen losses.

By 2008/09, the Bangladesh Department of Agricultural Extension spread UDP technology to 500,000 hectares (ha) of paddy fields, increasing production by 268,000 metric tons (mt) annually. Farmers using UDP had additional annual net returns of $188/ha. (Bangladesh’s average per capita annual income is about $500.) UDP use reduced Bangladesh’s urea import costs in 2008 by 50,000 mt, saving $22 million in fertilizer imports and $14 million in government subsidies. The additional rice has made 1.5 million more Bangladeshis food secure. The Government of Bangladesh began expanding UDP technology in 2009 to 2.9 million more farm families on 1.5 million ha. In 2011, rice production is expected to increase by almost one million mt, ensuring food security for an additional 4.2 million Bangladeshis. FDP trials have also been conducted in Afghanistan and India. In India, IFDC scientists examined the effect of deep placement of briquettes made of urea, diammonium phosphate and potassium chloride compared with broadcasting NPK (nitrogen, phosphate, potassium). Deep placement resulted in similar or higher grain yields obtained with 40 kg/ha less nitrogen used.

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