Across Asia, millions of rice farmers depend on urea fertilizer to meet the nitrogen needs of the continent’s primary crop – irrigated and rain-fed rice. Many farmers still spread urea into floodwaters to fertilize paddy plants. This is highly inefficient – about two-thirds of the fertilizer is lost as greenhouse gas or becomes a groundwater pollutant. Fertilizer deep placement (FDP) is a more efficient and environmentally responsible method of fertilization.
Like most smallholder farmers in Asia and Africa, farmers in Bangladesh are resource-poor and risk-adverse. Technology introduction in such an environment often has a slow return to invested capital, a deterrent to major private sector investment. Over the past two decades, IFDC scientists have worked with the public sector (e.g., Bangladesh Ministry of Agriculture and the Rice Research Institute) and the private sector (small private entrepreneurs) to develop FDP technology based upon urea supergranules (when used with urea fertilizer, FDP is called UDP – urea deep placement).
UDP – a simple yet innovative technology – involves the placement of 1-3 grams of urea supergranules or briquettes at a 7-10 centimeters (cm) soil depth shortly after the paddy is transplanted. UDP increases nitrogen use efficiency because most of the urea nitrogen stays in the soil, close to the plant roots where it is absorbed more effectively. The benefits of the technology are significant – a 20 percent increase in crop yields and a 40 percent decrease in nitrogen losses.
By 2008/09, the Bangladesh Department of Agricultural Extension (with IFDC assistance) spread UDP technology to 500,000 hectares (ha) of paddy fields, increasing production by 268,000 metric tons (mt) annually. Farmers using UDP had additional annual net returns of $188/ha. (Bangladesh’s average per capita annual income is about $500.)
UDP use reduced Bangladesh’s urea import costs in 2008 by 50,000 mt, saving $22 million in fertilizer imports and $14 million in government subsidies. The additional rice has made 1.5 million more Bangladeshis food secure.
The Government of Bangladesh began expanding UDP technology in 2009 to 2.9 million more farm families on 1.5 million ha. In 2011, rice production is expected to increase by almost one million mt, ensuring food security for an additional 4.2 million Bangladeshis.
UDP technology not only improves farmers’ productivity and income, but the need for urea supergranules also creates employment opportunities. IFDC engineers developed a simple machine to mold urea into briquettes, and helped establish village-level businesses to manufacture and distribute the machines. Nearly 2,500 urea briquette machines are in use across Bangladesh. UDP technology is also successfully being used in Nepal and Vietnam.
FDP trials have also been conducted in Afghanistan and India. In India, IFDC scientists examined the effect of deep placement of briquettes made of urea, diammonium phosphate and potassium chloride compared with broadcasting NPK (nitrogen, phosphate, potassium). Deep placement resulted in similar or higher grain yields obtained with 40 kg/ha less nitrogen used.
All farmers seek gains in efficiency and productivity, but nowhere is the need greater than in Africa. FDP technology has been introduced and is being tested in Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Togo.
UDP Projects in Bangladesh
Download FDP Brochure (English)
Download FDP Brochure (French)