This year, farmers may be looking to urea and protected urea as cheaper alternatives to CAN.

One thing farmers need to get right when using urea is spreading. Urea has a lower density than CAN or compounds, so it can be more difficult to spread, as it can be influenced easily by the wind.

Speaking at the Teagasc National Tillage Conference this week, Dermot Forristal commented that it’s much easier to throw a golf ball and throw it accurately than a table tennis ball because the golf ball has more weight behind it.

As machinery gets bigger, wider bout widths pose a challenge for accurate spreading of urea, as the machine has to throw the lighter material a longer distance.

Strong granules

Dermot noted that good-quality urea should have large and strong granules. He advised farmers to take proper measurements before spreading, as should be done with all fertilisers, and commented that some urea products can be easier to spread than others as they have bigger granules.

Giving an example of a urea product where 80% of granules were sized between 2mm and 3.3mm and a product where just over 40% of granules were 3.3mm to 4.75mm and over 50% were 2mm to 3.3mm, Dermot explained the product with the bigger granules should be easier to spread.


Measuring the strength is also important as strong granules won’t break to dust.

The Teagasc researcher said farmers should have a handheld sieve box, strength tester and match particle shapes to photographs in order to set their fertiliser spreader accurately.

He advised farmers to look at the urea delivered, match it to the data available from the fertiliser spreader manufacturer and input it into the app to get the fertiliser spreader settings right.

The app should tell you if the spreader is capable of spreading at your desired width. Dermot noted it may be able to spread CAN at 30m, but urea may be limited to 24m and this needs to be respected.


The app will give advice on any changes that need to be made to the discs or the veins. Farmers should then check the spread pattern using trays or mats in the field. This will take time, but it is time that will save money.

Dermot commented that if you’re going to spend €70,000 on fertiliser and it takes three hours to set up the spreader at €50/hour, that’s just €150 or 0.2% of the total fertiliser costs.

He also advised farmers to always be mindful of wind when spreading urea and with blended urea products, as the nitrogen may spread differently to the P and K.