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Fertilizer research

, Volume 42, Issue 1–3, pp 321–329 | Cite as

Recent research on problems in the use of urea as a nitrogen fertilizer

  • J. M. Bremner
Article

Abstract

Recent research on the NH3 volatilization, NO 2 - accumulation, and phytotoxicity problems encountered in the use of urea fertilizer is reviewed. This research has shown that the adverse effects of urea fertilizers on seed germination and seedling growth in soil are due to NH3 produced through hydrolysis of urea by soil urease and can be eliminated by addition of a urease inhibitor to these fertilizers. It also has shown that the leaf burn commonly observed after foliar fertilization of soybean with urea results from accumulation of toxic amounts of urea in soybean leaves rather than formation of toxic amounts of NH3 through hydrolysis of urea by leaf urease. It further showed that this leaf burn is accordingly increased rather than decreased by addition of a urease inhibitor to the urea fertilizer applied. N-(n-butyl)thiophosphoric triamide (NBPT) is the most effective compound currently available for retarding hydrolysis of urea fertilizer in soil, decreasing NH3 volatilization and NO 2 - accumulation in soils treated with urea, and eliminating the adverse effects of urea fertilizer on seed germination and seedling growth in soil. NBPT is a poor inhibitor of plant or microbial urease, but it decomposes quite rapidly in soil with formation of its oxon analog N-(n-butyl) phosphoric triamide, which is a potent inhibitor of urease activity. It is not as effective as phenylphosphorodiamidate (PPD) for retarding urea hydrolysis and ammonia volatilization in soils under waterlogged conditions, presumably because these conditions retard formation of its oxon analog. PPD is a potent inhibitor of urease activity but it decomposes quite rapidly in soils with formation of phenol, which is a relatively weak inhibitor of urease activity. Recent studies of the effects of pesticides on transformations of urea N in soil indicate that fungicides have greater potential than herbicides or insecticides for retarding hydrolysis of urea and nitrification of urea N in soil.

Key words

urea fertilizer phytotoxicity ammonia volatilization nitrite accumulation urea hydrolysis urease inhibitors 

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. M. Bremner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AgronomyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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