Recycled Urine as a Tool to Boost Plant Growth

Urine as a Tool to Boost Plant Growth

Did you know you can use urine to keep your garden plants healthy? Yes, you can; however, that does not mean that you spray your plants with urine directly. Untreated urine is harmful to plants since it contains wastes and germs. Istead, you can use the products I use for the same purpose.

When urine is treated, it can provide some nutrients that are important for plant growth. Human urine contains phosphorus and nitrogen which are essential for proper plant growth. Finland researchers have discovered a process that can remove the nutrients from raw urine. The process is a potential revenue generator that can be a full-time business.

Urine contains almost 70% of water while the remaining 30% is waste. The wastes come from various organs of the body such as the kidneys. Nitrogen in urine exists in a chemical called urea and is one of the nutrients that boosts plant growth.

As mentioned above, untreated urine is harmful to both plants and people. Raw urine must be processed to produce a safe product that can be added to plant fertilizer. Synthetic urine is also not ideal for boosting plant fertilizer since it lacks the necessary nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous.

Surendra Pradhan, a Finland Aalto University environmentalist, says he was inspired to venture into the business while on a research tour in Ghana. He noticed that many parts of Ghana lack proper wastewater treatment centers. Untreated wastewater is a big problem in most parts of the African continent. The waste causes a lot of diseases and pollutes nearby water bodies.

The Process

There are several methods used to manufacture fertilizer from urine. One method produces magnesium-ammonium phosphate crystals, commonly known as struvite. Struvite is a useful source of phosphorous and nitrogen that can be used by farmers. However, not many farmers are aware that struvite exists, and those who do may not need both of the nutrients.

Pradhan came up with the idea of upgrading an existing product known as ammonium sulfate fertilizer. Pradhan and his group decided to make a urine-sourced product to make ammonium sulfate richer in nitrogen. They got the idea from an issue of Environmental Science & Technology.

How It’s Done

The new process starts with an addition of calcium hydroxide to the raw urine. Calcium hydroxide is an alkaline base used to increase the pH urine to above 12. Rising the pH sterilizes and kills any germs in the urine.

Calcium hydroxide is also used to remove phosphorus from urine. It reacts with urine in a chemical reaction that forms calcium phosphate. It’s then sold as a fertilizer which is rich in phosphorous.

The chemical reaction also forms nitrogen gas that reacts with sulfuric acid to form ammonium sulfate. Ammonium sulfate is the most common nitrogen-rich fertilizer in the market today.

Researchers are, however, checking if whether the fertilizers might contain contaminants such as metals that might be harmful to plants. Current research shows that the risk of the fertilizers containing contaminants is minimal.

Pradhan says that the recycling process will only make sense if it reaps a profit. It would be impossible for people to venture into the business if they are not going to make money out of it. If it works out, the process could be a great way of treating wastewater and reusing urine for profit.

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