The Union government has changed the specifications of nano-urea, prescribing higher nitrogen content, produced by cooperative major IFFCO, after the expiry of the first notification issued in 2021. Simultaneously, IFFCO announced the launch of new Nano Urea Plus (liquid) conforming to the new specifications, likely for the ensuing kharif season. Production of the new product is likely to commence over the next 7-10 days at its existing facilities.

The Agriculture Ministry on April 16 notified the specifications, valid for three years, under which IFFCO’s nano-urea will have to have a minimum 16 per cent nitrogen (N) by weight. In the earlier notification issued on February 24, 2021, which was also valid for three years, the nitrogen per cent by weight was prescribed as between 1 and 5.

As in the conventional granular bag of urea (45 kg) the nitrogen content is 46 per cent, some experts had questioned the efficacy of nano-urea which was permitted with very low nitrogen. At many places in Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, farmers did not use nano-urea after did not get the desired yield.

Farmers’ resistance

The resistance of the farmers to buy nano-urea had led to forced sales of the liquid fertilisers in these states. After complaints by farmers, the government had to issue orders asking companies and retailers not to tag nano-urea with conventional bag.

“The government when claimed that one nano-urea bottle of 500 ml is equivalent to one 45 kg bag of granular urea, many farmers believed that and got contrary results after following that prescriptions. What the scientists prescribe – use three bags and one bottle in place of 4 bags – cutting conventional urea usage by 25 per cent is different from what the current political leadership conveyed,” said A K Singh, an agriculture scientist.

These new specifications are four times higher than the current 4 per cent of Nitrogen available in nano-urea, Singh said and added that there may be good results from Nano Urea Plus. However, he said he was not aware of its trials anywhere before the approval of new specifications.

Other specifications such as pH, Viscosity, Zeta potential in mV and particle size in the notification are same was in the 2021 Order.

Sources said that IFFCO has sold 7.5 crore bottles of nano-urea (of 500 ml each) out of 8.53 crore bottles produced so far since it was launched in August 2021.

Climate-smart farming

U S Awasthi, Managing Director & CEO of IFFCO, said Nano Urea Plus (Liquid) 16 per cent N w/w is equivalent to 20 per cent N weight against volume has been notified by government for a period of three years.

“IFFCO Nano Urea Plus is an advanced formulation of Nano Urea in which nutrition is redefined to meet crop nitrogen requirement at critical growth phases. It is used in place of conventional urea and other nitrogenous fertilisers for promoting soil health, farmer’s profitability and sustainable environment. It also enhances the availability and efficiency of micronutrients. It is Chlorophyll Charger, yield booster and will help in climate smart farming,” Awasthi said.

The selling price of Nano Urea Plus is likely to be same (despite higher N content) as IFFCO’s nano urea MRP remains at ₹225 per bottle of 500 ml since 2021, sources said.

According to latest official data, the demand for urea in the current season starting April is estimated to be 177.13 lakh tonnes (lt), down by 4 per cent from actual sales of 183.95 lt in Kharif 2023. Overall sales of urea during April-February of last fiscal recorded at 341.2 lt as against 341.2 lt in the year-ago period.