A recent academic paper has cast doubt on the scientific veracity of nano liquid urea, a product introduced by the Indian Farmers and Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO), the country’s largest fertiliser manufacturer. Launched as a superior alternative to traditional granular urea, the paper titled “Is India’s largest fertilizer manufacturer misleading farmers and society using dubious plant and soil science?” questions the scientifically proven efficacy of the touted fertiliser.
Published in the esteemed journal Plant and Soil, the paper posits that the fertiliser lacks substantiated effects and underscores the necessity for additional studies into the effectiveness and mechanisms of other nano fertilisers before their market introduction.
In an extensive investigation conducted by Down To Earth across four segments, the practical application of nano liquid urea revealed elevated input costs for farmers with negligible observable outcomes.
The authors of the opinion paper, Max Frank from the University of Copenhagen and Søren Husted, highlighted discrepancies between IFFCO’s claims and established scientific literature. They criticized IFFCO’s lack of clear reference points to support yield improvements due to specific fertiliser application, thereby undermining the company’s assertions.
The paper underscores:
“The product [nano liquid urea by IFFCO] is promoted with misleading and wrong statements about its efficiency as a fertilizer, plant uptake pathways and environmental friendliness. With the doubts about the effect of nano urea in mind, the price of the product seems excessively high.”
The assertion made by IFFCO that a mere 250-gram foliar spray of nano urea containing 20 grams of nitrogen equates to a 45-kilogram bag of conventional urea with 21 kg nitrogen has also been scrutinized. The authors challenge this claim, indicating that if substantiated, the nano urea’s nitrogen-use efficiency would be enhanced by 1,000 times compared to conventional urea.
Moreover, IFFCO’s intention to bolster nano urea production with 10 new factories in 2023, further escalating its annual capacity to 440 million units and expanding its international reach, came under scrutiny. The Cooperative’s representations of enhanced crop yield and reduced environmental impact through nano urea were disputed in the paper.
The authors cautioned that IFFCO’s misrepresentations could lead to extensive yield losses with dire implications for food security and farmer livelihoods. The study concludes that IFFCO’s assertions deviate from reality, and the confidence in pioneering sustainable products could potentially be compromised.
Based on the existing scientific evidence, the paper contends that nano fertilisers were marketed with unwarranted assertions and lack scientific basis for positive environmental impact.
While nitrogen remains vital for crop growth, excessive use resulting from human activities has led to a multitude of environmental issues. The authors emphasize the importance of controlling excess nitrogen, highlighting the uncertainty surrounding the behavior of nano fertilisers, a compound whose implications are yet unknown.