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What Are the Different Types of Urea Fertilizers?

By Paul Scott
Updated May 16, 2024
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Urea fertilizers are nitrogen rich organic plant and soil nutrient supplements. Pure urea contains approximately 46% nitrogen by volume and is non-toxic and pH balanced when dissolved in water. Pure urea fertilizers are available in a fine crystalline form, as granules, or as coated slow release pellets. They also lend a strong nitrogen component to solid combination fertilizers such as urea phosphate and are often used in liquid foliar feed fertilizers. Their ready solubility also makes them a popular additive in fertilizer irrigation systems.

Nitrogen is one of the staples for healthy plant grown and well balanced soil compositions and is a standard component in many fertilizers. Also known as carbamide, urea fertilizers are among the strongest sources of nitrogen, with average concentrations of 46% by volume. They are available in a number of formats, thereby making them ideal for a number of application methods. In addition to their value as a nitrogen source, urea fertilizers are also non-toxic, nonflammable, highly soluble, and neither alkaline nor acidic when suspended in water.

The most common urea fertilizer types are the crystalline and granular variants. Crystalline urea fertilizers are the finest presentations and feature the quickest release time of the dry urea applications. For this reason care, should be exercised when applying this format of the fertilizer to avoid excessive nitrogen levels. Granular urea fertilizer is coarser and takes a little longer to break down in the soil. Both types are suitable for use with mechanical spreaders and may also be employed in fertigation or combination fertilizer/irrigation systems and as a premixed foliar feed.

The other common form of urea fertilizer is the slow release pellet. This is the coarsest presentation of the fertilizer; the pellets feature a specially formulated coating that allows the release of nitrogen into the soil in a slow, controlled fashion. This permits less frequent applications and reduces the chances of plant damage resulting from over application. Their size does, however, preclude use in most mechanical spreaders, thereby making spiking the most common means of application.

Pure urea fertilizers are often used in combination with monoammonium and diammonium phosphate as a multispectrum combination. They may also be mixed with superphosphates but only if the mixture is used immediately. If allowed to stand, this particular combination will result in the urea leaching moisture from the superphosphate. This phenomenon results in a damp, coagulated mass which is difficult to store and use.

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Discussion Comments
By anon246906 — On Feb 11, 2012

Lawn fertilization is very simple. It seems everyone overreacts and makes it more than it really is. In the spring, before the grass starts growing, use a high nitrogen fertilizer. Not just nitrogen-but a complete fertilizer! (The numbers on the bag are-nitrogen-phosphate-potash.) In the fall use a balanced fertilizer such as 13-13-13. Put it on just before the grass goes dormant. Buy your fertilizer at a farm store, not a lawn and garden place, and use a spreader. After the first year, sharpen your lawn mower blades.

By allenJo — On Jul 09, 2011

@NathanG - My neighbor uses urea lawn fertilizer and I noticed that his lawn stays green through fall and even early into the winter months.

I haven’t tried it myself; I had heard that too much fertilizer can actually be hard on the lawn over the long haul, especially this kind that really doses up the grass with nitrogen and stuff.

I’ve been mulching as well. My grass is not thin, but could use some greening up. I may give the urea nitrogen fertilizer a try, but like you I will stick to just one application and see. I'm a little concerned about those high nitrogen levels.

By NathanG — On Jul 09, 2011

I used urea lawn fertilizer on my thinning lawn for the first time, and I’m surprised at the results. The weeds died out and the grass is now thick and lush, in a matter of weeks, and the lawn is greener as well.

I made the mistake of putting too much fertilizer in one area, so that part was burned, but it’s pretty much been taken over by the new growth now and looks as good as new.

As a matter of fact, I’m even debating whether I need to add more fertilizer. I was going to go through several yearly applications, but the weather is really hot now and the lawn is growing so well.

I’ve been mulching, so the grass clippings have been acting as a fertilizer, although I realize that they are slow release. I’ll give it a few more weeks and see.

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