An international team of researchers — from institutions in the Republic of Niger, Germany and the U.K. — is conducting real-world tests where human urine is being used as a natural form of fertilizer for crops.

While urine is rich in the ingredients contained within commercial fertilizers — phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium, among others — it has not been fully embraced as a natural fertilizer due to an overriding squeamishness associated with using it to grow crops.

As such, the researchers performed a test over two growing seasons among two farming groups composed of women living in an isolated part of the Republic of Niger. According to the researchers, one group of farmers grew crops using traditional methods and the second group grew crops using urine — renamed Oga — to fertilize wheat. The second group of farmers was instructed on pasteurizing, storing and diluting their urine for use as a fertilizer.

Following the two growing seasons, the researchers measured crop yields, discovering that the group who used the Oga produced on average 30% more grain than the other farm, which used commercial fertilizers.

Fields of pearl millet treated with post-emergence application of (a) Oga and organic manure and (b) solely Oga, compared to controls. Source: Agron. Sustain. Dev. 41, 56 (2021)Fields of pearl millet treated with post-emergence application of (a) Oga and organic manure and (b) solely Oga, compared to controls. Source: Agron. Sustain. Dev. 41, 56 (2021)

The researchers suggest that this finding could pave the way for farms to lower the cost of farming by eliminating the need to purchase commercial products. Likewise, the Oga method of fertilizing could potentially be employed in the event that there is a scarcity of animal manure.

The research is detailed in the article, Sanitized human urine (Oga) as a fertilizer auto-innovation from women farmers in Niger, which appears in the journal Agronomy for Sustainable Development.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com