Urea is usually spread at rates of between 40 and 300 kg/ha (35 to 270 lbs/acre) but rates vary. Smaller applications incur lower losses due to leaching. During summer, urea is often spread just before or during rain to minimize losses from volatilization (a process wherein nitrogen is lost to the atmosphere as ammonia gas).
Because of the high nitrogen concentration in urea, it is very important to achieve an even spread. The application equipment must be correctly calibrated and properly used. Drilling must not occur on contact with or close to seed, due to the risk of germination damage. Urea dissolves in water for application as a spray or through irrigation systems.
In grain and cotton crops, urea is often applied at the time of the last cultivation before planting. In high rainfall areas and on sandy soils (where nitrogen can be lost through leaching) and where good in-season rainfall is expected, urea can be side- or top-dressed during the growing season. Top-dressing is also popular on pasture and forage crops. In cultivating sugarcane, urea is side-dressed after planting, and applied to each ratoon crop.
Urea absorbs moisture from the atmosphere and therefore is typically stored either in closed or sealed bags on pallets or, if stored in bulk, under cover with a tarpaulin. As with most solid fertilizers, storage in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area is recommended.
Overdose or placing urea near seed is harmful.