What are the Rule Changes for Urea Fertiliser in April?

As of 1st April 2024, the rules for the use of urea fertiliser are changing.  This has been brought about by the UK being legally bound to reduce ammonia pollution by 16% by 2030.  Agriculture is currently responsible for contributing to 88% of the UK’s ammonia emissions.

However, the use of unprotected urea can be applied between 15th January and 31st March each year, after these dates you will not be permitted to use Urea fertiliser unless it is protected.    

What is the problem with ammonia pollution?
This is not only a UK problem, but also an issue globally.  Ammonia as a gas remains in the atmosphere for a few hours once emitted, however once it mixes with other gases such as nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides it forms particulate matter. Particulate matter contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems. It also potentially causes a negative impact on the environment if ammonia, after travelling long distances within particulate matter, is deposited within nitrogen-sensitive environments.

Why is urea a problem?
If used in the correct conditions, the use of Urea isn’t a problem. However, if used incorrectly you risk losing between 10 and 20% of your applied nitrogen through volatilisation as ammonia (ammonia is 82% nitrogen) within the first 48-72 hours after application, impacting the efficiency of the product and the wider environment.

Conditions that contribute to this risk include:

  • Dry soils
  • Low levels of rainfall
  • Increased soil and air temperatures
  • A high soil pH
  • Low crop cover (e.g. spring cereals, maize, sugar beet and potatoes)

What are my alternatives?
Products such as BASF Limus is an effective product and has been tested both on farm and in trials within the UK and the wider global market for numerous seasons now.  Be aware of new products on the market.

AN-based products are outside these rules, so using these would remove the restriction of application periods or the requirement of urease inhibitors. One option is CF’s Nitram 34.5%N, however these products are currently less economical per unit of nitrogen than the use of a protected urea.

Nitrogen is currently (21st February 2024) available at £335/t (£9.71 per unit of Nitrogen), whereas Limus Protected Urea £395/t (£8.59 per unit of Nitrogen).

What are the rules with using liquid fertiliser?
The same applies, as a liquid fertiliser can be up to 50% urea, therefore it also requires a urease inhibitor when using from 1st April.  This is easier to manage as the urease can be added to the tank at the time of application. 

If you would like to discuss your fertiliser requirements this spring and the options available
please contact Louise on 07943 684215 or e-mail