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Over-application of Urea and DAP

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January 09, 2023

Why in news?

India’s fertiliser sector which has been riddled with distortions from excessive use of urea is seeing a similar phenomenon of over-application of Di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) due to underpricing.

What are the major reasons behind over usage?

The ideal Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium (NPK) use ratio is 4:2:1.

  • High fertilizer subsidy - High government subsidies are behind the low pricing, and high sales, of these two fertilisers.
  • Under the Nutrient based subsidy scheme, a fixed amount of subsidy, decided on an annual basis, is provided on each grade of subsidised phosphatic and potassic (P&K) fertilisers, except for urea, based on the nutrient content present in them.
  • Cooling of global fertilizer prices - The easing of global fertilizer prices significantly improved overall availability of the fertilizers, except Muriate of Potash (MOP), during the ongoing rabi cropping season.
  • India is the top country by diammonium phosphate import in the world.

What efforts were taken to optimize the fertilizer usage in India?

Urea has 46% nitrogen (N), while DAP contains 46% phosphorus (P) plus 18% N and MOP has 60% potassium (K).

  • NBS scheme - The nutrient-based subsidy (NBS) scheme was launched in 2010 to discourage farmers from applying too much urea, DAP and MOP.
  • By moving away from product-specific subsidy, to one where the government fixed a per-kg NBS rate for each nutrient (N, P, K and sulphur or S), it was expected to promote balanced fertilisation.
  • It also meant more use of complex fertilisers and single super phosphate (SSP, which contains 16% P and 11% S).
  • Neem coating of urea - The government made coating of urea with neem oil compulsory from 2015-16, to check illegal diversion of the heavily-subsidised fertiliser for non-agricultural uses.
  • Neem oil acted as a mild nitrification inhibitor, allowing a gradual release of nitrogen thus promoting nitrogen use efficiency.

What is the concern now?

  • The current fiscal has witnessed a worsening of nutrition imbalances.
  • Consumption of both urea and DAP has shot up while the sales of complexes (SSP and MOP) have reduced.
  • The problem is attributed the imbalances to “disturbances in the price hierarchy”.
  • Among the non-urea fertilisers, the maximum retail price (MRP) was normally the highest for DAP and lowest for MOP.
  • But it’s the other way round now, prompting the farmers to use more DAP.

What is the road ahead?

  • Restriction of DAP - The DAP use must be restricted to rice and wheat.
  • All other crops can meet their Phosphorus requirement through SSP and complexes.
  • Promotion of SSP - The SSP’s acceptance can be raised by permitting sale only in granular and not in powdered form as SSP powder is prone to adulteration with gypsum or clay.
  • Farmers can be assured of quality through granules, which will also promote slower release of P without drift during application.

Quick Facts


  • Urea is a source of nitrogen, an essential nutrient crucial for crop growth and development.
  • Urea is the most important nitrogenous fertilizer in the country because of its high N content (46%N).
  • It is a white crystalline organic chemical compound with neutral pH.
  • Urea is widely used in the agricultural sector both as a fertilizer and animal feed additive.

Di-ammonium phosphate (DAP)

  • DAP is a water-soluble ammonium phosphate salt which is produced by the reaction of ammonia with phosphoric acid under controlled conditions.
  • DAP is the 2nd most commonly used fertiliser in India after urea and farmers normally apply this fertiliser just before or at the beginning of sowing.
  • It is a basic nutrient for Rabi crops like mustard and wheat.
  • Fertilizer grade DAP contains 18% Nitrogen and 46% Phosphorus (P2O5).
  • Though there are other phosphatic fertiliser such as Single Super Phosphate (SSP), DAP is the preferred source since it contains nitrogen as well.



  1. The Indian Express | Over-application of urea and DAP
  2. The Indian Express | High use of subsidised fertilisers
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