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Should I Spread Urea at Current Pricing?

In some regions, we have average (to better than average) yield potentials, so most crops will have a real appetite for nitrogen (N) fertiliser.

Other cropping areas are a bit drier, but regardless of the rainfall received so far, you still need to plan and review yield expectations and your nitrogen budget.

To develop an effective N topdressing strategy, you need to get your target yield and timing right; the timing of your nitrogen application can not always be based on perfect science.  Quite often, growers will have to apply N at any given opportunity prior to a rain front.  Getting the N applied earlier than ideal is often a great management decision compared to waiting for “ideal” timing and not receiving a rainfall to apply urea.

A general rule is approximately 40kg N/ha for every tonne of wheat grain yield (cereals) and 80kg N/ha for every tonne of canola grain yield.

Of course, this depends on nitrogen uptake efficiency.  Read up on the latest thoughts.

Nitrogen fertiliser is one of the highest input costs to canola growers.  By applying most of the nitrogen fertiliser in the early part of the growing season, but before stem elongation, rather than all before sowing, farmers can reduce some of the financial risks of growing canola.

Urea pricing has increased significantly in recent months. Farmers and agronomists need to calculate the return on any investment on the farm, and urea is no different. On our initial calculations, If you determine that urea is required to obtain optimum yield, our initial calculations proved that returns are still in the range of 2.5:1 – 3:1

If you’re keen to capitilise on the recent rains (if you’ve had some), sit down with your agronomist ASAP and plan your nitrogen strategy.


An example of nitrogen budgeting below:

Input Parameters Wheat Crop Details
Target Yield t/ha 3.5
Grain Price $/t $300.00
Gross Income $/ha $1,050.00
Nitrogen required kg/ha 140
Available or Applied N Year-to-Date kg/ha 90
Nitrogen deficit kg/ha 50
Current Yield Based On Available N t/ha 2.25
Gross Income $/ha on current Yield $675.00
Urea Required to hit Yield Target kg/ha 109
Urea Price $/t $765.00
Urea Cost at required rate $/ha $83.15
Estimated Return on Investment $/ha $291.85
Estimated Return on Investment Ratio 2.5


Resources/further reading:

Growing canola in Victoria | Growing grains, pulses and cereals | Grains, pulses and cereals | Crops and horticulture | Agriculture Victoria

Budgeting crop nitrogen supply better estimation better decisions – GRDC

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