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Explained: What is liquid nano urea, produced by IFFCO, which can potentially revolutionise the use of nitrogen fertilisers in India?

The liquid nano urea produced by Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO) Limited comes in a half-litre bottle priced at Rs 240, and carries no burden of subsidy currently. By contrast, a farmer pays around Rs 300 for a 50-kg bag of heavily subsidised urea.

liquid nano urea plant farmersLiquid nano urea has a shelf life of a year, and farmers need not be worried about "caking" when it comes in contact with moisture. (File Photo)

During his visit to Gujarat this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi officially inaugurated the country’s first liquid nano urea plant at Kalol. This patented product is expected to not only substitute imported urea, but to also produce better results in farms.

In what respects is the indigenous liquid nano urea a better bet than imported urea?

The liquid nano urea produced by Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO) Limited comes in a half-litre bottle priced at Rs 240, and carries no burden of subsidy currently. By contrast, a farmer pays around Rs 300 for a 50-kg bag of heavily subsidised urea.

“The international market price of a bag of urea is between Rs 3,500 and Rs 4,000, and significant quantities of it is imported,” said Alok Jaiswal, senior manager (process), and operations head of IFFCO’s liquid nano urea plant.
According to IFFCO, a bottle of the nano urea can effectively replace at least one bag of urea.

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The Prime Minister spoke about the high fertiliser subsidy bill of the government, as India is dependent on imports
of the widely used fertiliser. The government’s fertliser subsidy payout this financial year will be Rs 2 lakh crore, up 25 per cent from the Rs 1.6 lakh crore it paid last year.

But what exactly is liquid nano urea, and how does it work?

It is essentially urea in the form of a nanoparticle. Urea is a chemical nitrogen fertiliser, white in colour, which artificially provides nitrogen, a major nutrient required by plants.

The product has been developed at IFFCO’s Nano Biotechnology Research Centre (NBRC) at Kalol. Apart from reducing the country’s subsidy bill, it is aimed at reducing the unbalanced and indiscriminate use of conventional urea, increase crop productivity, and reduce soil, water, and air pollution.

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While conventional urea has an efficiency of about 25 per cent, the efficiency of liquid nano urea can be as high as 85-90 per cent. Conventional urea fails to have the desired impact on crops as it is often applied incorrectly, and the nitrogen in it is vaporised or lost as gas. A lot of nitrogen is also washed away during irrigation.

Liquid nano urea is sprayed directly on the leaves and gets absorbed by the plant. Fertilisers in nano form provide a targeted supply of nutrients to crops, as they are absorbed by the stomata, pores found on the epidermis of leaves, officials said. IFFCO advises that 2-4 ml of nano urea should be mixed a litre of water and sprayed on crop leaves at active growth stages.

Liquid nano urea has a shelf life of a year, and farmers need not be worried about “caking” when it comes in contact with moisture.

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According to IFFCO, liquid nano urea contains 4 per cent total nitrogen (w/v) evenly dispersed in water. The size of a nano nitrogen particle varies from 20-50 nm. (A nanometre is equal to a billionth of a metre.)

IFFCO says the product has been tested on more than 90 crops across 11,000 locations in collaboration with Krishi Vigyan Kendras of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR-KVKs), research institutes, state agriculture universities, and progressive farmers. “The trials began in November 2019 and was meant to test the product on the farm under different climatic and soil conditions,” Jaiswal said.

How much chemical fertilisers does Gujarat use?

Gujarat is expected to see a 19 per cent growth in the use of chemical fertilisers during the upcoming kharif season, 2022. The Gujarat government will provide a subsidy of Rs 5,278 crore to farmers for an estimated 19.95 lakh tonne of fertilisers that are expected to be used this kharif season. Along with the spend during the rabi season, the state’s fertiliser subsidy bill is more than Rs 10,000 crore.

Gujarat government officials said “natural” farming is still at a nascent stage, and it will be a few years before it can have an impact on the use of chemical fertilisers. However, the government has already begun cutting down on chemical fertilisers.

For instance, under the Krishi Vaividhyakaran Yojana or the Agriculture Diversification Project implemented for tribal farmers in 14 districts, the government has started substituting chemical fertilisers with organic fertilisers in the kits it hands out. In Dangs, which has been declared a 100 per cent natural farming district, no chemical fertilisers are being given under this scheme this year.

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Officials said that apart from helping cut the use of conventional fertlisers, liquid nano urea is also comparatively safe for the environment.

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What is planned for the future with regard to liquid nano urea production?

IFFCO commissioned the Kalol liquid nano urea plant, the country’s first, in August 2021. Over 3.6 crore bottles of this urea have been produced, of which 2.5 crore have been sold.

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IFFCO is setting up additional facilities for production of nano fertilisers at Aonla, Phulpur, Bengaluru, Paradeep, Kandla, Deoghar and Guwahati, besides expanding the Kalol plant, for the production of nano urea, nano DAP and nano micronutrients. These units will have a production capacity of 2 lakh bottles per day.

First published on: 31-05-2022 at 08:37:27 pm
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