In Vietnam as elsewhere, farmers use urea fertilizer to
provide nitrogen to their rice plants.
The usual method of application is to broadcast granules
of urea over fields periodically during the crop cycle. The process is very
inefficient; more than 40% of fertilizer is lost to aeration and run-off,
damaging soil and water without benefiting rice crops.
With the support of the International Fertilizer
Development Center (IFDC), IDE has field-tested and adapted a technology that
compacts urea granules into small single-application pellets. Instead of
throwing them onto the field, farmers plant the pellets beneath the soil next to
the rice seedlings. In contrast to
conventional broadcasting, urea deep placement (UDP) technology delivers a
smaller amount of fertilizer directly to the roots of crops, which not only
reduces leaching of urea into the environment, but also results in
stronger, more pest-resistant plants and greater yields.
After adapting and testing UDP technology alongside
farmers in 110 field trials over
three rice crops, IDE launched a project to make the technique available to
large numbers of farmers. After only two years, IDE’s improved
fertilizer project has motivated more than 700 farmers across four provinces –
including 200 in poor, minority upland districts – to purchase compressed
fertilizer pellets and adopt fertilizer deep placement. These farmers have
increased their incomes by increasing rice yields while reducing fertilizer
costs, and significantly reduced the run-off of fertilizer into local water
With support from East Meets West Foundation and the
Local Environment Fund, IDE is building and supporting the local private sector – pellet producers and
village-based retailers and promoters – which is creating demand for the
technology through rural
marketing campaigns conducted with IDE and local government assistance.
The rapid adoption of compressed urea pellets is good
news for both the farmers and the environment. IDE’s trials show that the
technology reduces the quantity of fertilizer used by 35%, while increasing rice
yields by 15 – 20%. Replicating this experience on a countrywide scale could
potentially lead to an increase in rice production worth nearly $500 million and
an offsetting of half a million tons of fertilizer that would otherwise have
leached to the environment.