Fixing the fertiliser crisis? Yes wee can!

by | Jun 23, 2022 | News

Global events have lead to a severe fertiliser shortage, threatening harvests. Turns out, a simple solution is close at hand.

Sanctions on Russia, bad weather, and export cuts have fuelled a severe fertiliser shortage. As chemical fertiliser supplies dwindle, farmers are scrambling for a replacement to maintain food productions and avoid making the current global food crisis worse than it already is.

Can we fix it? Yes wee can, says The Guardian, reporting on a  study that gives green light to use urine as crop fertiliser.

Urine can be used as a fertiliser without fear it will fuel the spread of antibiotic resistance, researchers have revealed. The spread of antibiotic resistance is an issue experts have said is as great a threat to humanity as the climate crisis. But now experts say that, for stored urine at least, bacterial DNA is not passed on to other microbes. For this reason, the researchers urge caution against using fresh bodily waste to water crops.

“I think this is an important step in demonstrating that we have methods where we can reduce the risks that the things in urine pose,” said Dr Krista Wigginton, a co-author of the research from the University of Michigan.

Urine is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus and has been used for generations to help plants grow. Using portable urine-collecting toilets, an estimated 330 tonnes of nitrogen and 20 tonnes of phosphorus a day could be retrieved should 10% of the US population collect their urine.

New York Times: Meet the Peecyclers. Their Idea to Help Farmers Is No. 1

Now team of researchers from several institutions in Niger, Germany and the U.K. has conducted a real-world test of the use of human urine as a natural form of fertiliser for crops. In their paper published in the journal Agronomy for Sustainable Development, the group describes an experiment they conducted with women farmers in the Niger Republic and the use of human urine. Data collected from the farms showed that those that had been fertilised by this method produced on average 30% more grain than the traditional farms.

Oh, and by the way – we’re calling it Oga now. The first step in the Niger-based experiment involved renaming urine because its common name was considered offensive. They settled on Oga, which means “boss” in the Igbo language.

Want to be part of the Peecyclers movement? Read this New York Times profile about serial donators Ms. Lucy and her hubby, who are more than a thousand gallons of donated urine , Ms. Lucy and her husband are part of a global drive to address a slew of challenges — including food security, water scarcity and inadequate sanitation.

 

 

Credit for lead image: Guardian /  Rich Earth Institute

 

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