Urea is a nitrogen fertilizer prevalently used. Its drawback is that it quickly breaks down in wet soils to form ammonia. This ammonia gets washed away, causing an important environmental issue. Further, the fast decomposition also reduces the quantity of nitrogen absorbed by the roots of crops. This creates a need for more fertilizer application for boosting production. This can be an issue in low-income areas as farmers quit additional applications owing to fertilizer costs. This cripples the yield of crops.
Researchers from the American Chemical Society have come up with a solution for this. They have developed an easy and scalable method to coat HA (hydroxyapatite) nano-particles with urea molecules. HA is an eco-friendly mineral found in animal and human tissues. The hybridized HA nano-particles and urea, in water, release nitrogen 12 times slower. This reduced the required fertilizer application by one-half in rice crop test fields.
Thus, the HA-urea nano-hybrid development can contribute to a new green revolution to feed the constantly growing world population, besides improving agriculture’s environmental sustainability, say researchers.
This research has been published in the paper “Urea-Hydroxyapatite Nanohybrids for Slow Release of Nitrogen” in the journal ACS Nano.