Fertiliser use is responsible for 30 to 35% of the total agricultural emissions. When farmers use Protected Urea, they can reduce overall nitrous oxide and ammonia emissions from the fertiliser. 

protected urea


Straight fertilisers such as Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) are high nitrous oxide emitters whereas Urea emits more ammonia. Protected Urea is Urea treated with a urease inhibitor to minimise both ammonia and nitrous oxide losses.

Why should farmers use protected urea? 

  •  Farmers can use Protected Urea to reduce nitrous oxide and ammonia emissions. 
  • Protected Urea costs less per kilogram of nitrogen than CAN.

In the following video, farmer discusses the use of protected urea.

How does Protected Urea work?

  • Urea is not readily available to plants and initially needs to be converted into ammonium.
  • This is done by urease enzymes in the soil that binds to the urea.
  • Urease inhibitors temporarily bind to the urease enzymes so they can’t bind to the Urea, preventing the localised spike in pH and reducing the losses of ammonia.

Teagasc researchers explain the importance of using protected urea.

Economic and Environmental Benefits

Most farmers use a combination of CAN and Urea for their nitrogen requirements. The Table below shows the net annual savings and emission reductions from replacing a combination of CAN and Urea with Protected Urea.

Fertliser savings and reduction in emissions from Protected Urea

Scenario 1
50% CAN 50% Urea
Scenario 2
100% Protected urea
Price /kg Nitrogen (€)1.621.41
Average itrogen fertliser application (kg/ha)220220
Savings /farm(41ha) (€)2402
Net savings/ha (€)46
Environmental impact
Total Emissions (kg CO2-eq / kg FPCM)0.9600.906
Reduction in emissions (%)5.62 %
kgCO2-eq /kg FPCM is the carbon footprint per kilogram of Fat and Protein Corrected milk
Farm size is 52ha applying 220kg/ha nitrogen fertiliser
The fertiliser prices of  May 2023:  €520/t  for CAN,  €602/t  for Urea and €650/t Protected urea were used (https://data.cso.ie/)
Net savings/ cost are the savings or cost per year for the farm


Research at Farm Zero C

At FZC, the farm has gone from using 58% protected urea in 2020 to 97% in 2022 to replace CAN. The change had no negative impact on grass yield at the farm.

Other Research

Key findings from previous research are as follows:

  • Protected urea resulted in a significant reduction in ammonia in both grass and tillage cropping when compared to standard urea.
  • When compared to CAN, protected urea had a significant reduction in nitrous oxide losses in grassland (Forrestal et al., 2019).
  • Urea treated with NBPT could reduce N₂O emissions to levels similar to unfertilised control without reducing the yield of grass in Johnson Castle (Krol et al., 2020).
  • There is a very low risk of the inhibitor(NBPT) residuals in milk if animals are fed with grass fertilised with protected urea (Nkwotwa et al., 2021; van de Light et al., 2021).

    Links to more research

  • Protected urea: what is it, does it work, and is it cost-effective?


Switching to protected urea would help farmers in achieving the following climate targets and regulations.

European Communities (Fertiliser) Regulations 2005

European green deal

Ag Climatise roadmap 2020– The following actions of the roadmap towards climate neutrality promote the use of protected urea.

  •  “Action 2: Replace 50% of the straight CAN used on Irish grassland with protected Urea by 2030 and replace all urea with protected urea.”
  • “Action 4: Maximise production of grazed grass.” 


The link below from Teagasc provides a list of fertiliser products available on the Irish market containing a protected  form of urea and the suppliers of such products.


Farmers  are now required to register as professional end users of fertiliser on the national fertiliser database.