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Modern Farmer link/story about urine-as-fertilizer Rich Earth Institute field trials in Vermont  RSS feed

 
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Location: Harrisonburg, VA
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http://modernfarmer.com/2014/01/human-pee-proven-fertilizer-future/


Thought everyone here would enjoy if they hadn't seen this yet.
 
Posts: 46
Location: New Hampshire, USA zone 5/6
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I was excited to attend a lecture about this very project. It was really informative. Here are some of the things I learned:

   -Other than water, nitrogen is the primary component of urine.

   -Nitrogen is very difficult/expensive to remove from urine. I heard that Portsmouth, NH is having to add a multi million dollar upgrade to remove nitrogen from the waste water because the environmental levels are getting too high.

   -Most waste water treatment plants don't bother removing it before releasing the "treated" waste water to the environment.

   -If you have a septic tank the nitrogen is generally going straight into the ground water (this means it is bypassing the nitrogen loving greenery on the surface of our earth).

   -As many of you already know, nitrogen in our waterways is becoming a BIG problem. This problem is as much from urine as it is from industrial agriculture.

   -The amount of pharmaceuticals transferred to plants through urine applied as fertilizer is extremely low (zero if you are using your own urine and you don't take pharmaceuticals). It was something like in order to get one dose of Tylenol you had to eat more than a dozen heads of lettuce (I'm pulling that number from a very fuzzy memory that only recalls the number being really high and therefore not an issue for an otherwise healthy person, so don't quote that).

   -Urine can be applied directly without being diluted. This was proven as you can see clearly at the link posted by David Miller. There was some talk about pH. Urine becomes acidic when it sits, this means applying it very fresh avoids the acidity, or conversely intentionally letting it sit, and therefore become acidic, is an effective way to sterilize if you are gathering from the general populace and so have concerns about this. Its also important to know that letting it sit is what will make urine start to stink like urine.

   -If smell is a concern putting a small amount of vinegar into the holding container before storage seems to prevent this. It was said that the acidity of the vinegar prevent the chemical degradation that results in the smelly parts of urine (This has something to do with urease and uric acid. I'm sure you could easily look this up if the chemistry interests you). That would also mean the vinegar is preventing the urine from becoming acidic on its own, which means that if you are using the acidity to sterilize through aging of the urine, the effectiveness may change with the use of vinegar. It would depend on the level of acidity of the end product in each case. Just something to keep in mind.


Attached you can see pictures of a male and female version of simple yet somewhat elegant ways to easily collect urine. **Please note that for both of these a ping pong ball should be used as a "plug" for the funnel to prevent any smells from wafting out between uses** These apparati would make it feel more comfortable and doable for the less revolutionary people in your household.


I unfortunately do not have a household that would tolerate this use of urine, so after attending the lecture I've begun discreetly diverting my own urine to water my ornamental gardens and landscape through a very simple method. As a female living on an urban lot peeing outside is not an option. Instead I pee into a quart sized jar then go outside and pour it out somewhere strategically, then rinse the jar after each use with a small amount of water from my rain barrel.



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Female urine collector with 2.5 gallon tank
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Female urine collector from top
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Handy hinge to make removal of funnel easier
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How to use it...
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Male urine collector
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Male Urine Collector
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Makes a nice plant stand when the door is closed
 
Jackie Frobese
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Location: New Hampshire, USA zone 5/6
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I Wanted to add that the valve sitting on top of the male urine collector is not part of the collector in itself. Its the valve that can be put onto the 2.5 gallon bottle when transporting, and to make emptying it easier and without splashing (no one wants urine splashing on them). Both systems use the same collection bottle.

It was mentioned at the lecture that the production and distribution of these collectors could be a business opportunity as no one is doing that at this time.
 
pollinator
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Bravo!

The male urine distribution "equipment" is much easier to use directly in the garden than the female version (sorry, sisters), but never the less, everyone should be capturing and using pee whenever and wherever they can.  Every guy should have a couple of discrete spots in their garden where they can directly drain the tank and put this valuable resource directly into the root zone of the trees and plants that most need it.  Heck -- ladies as well.

Not only are we keeping this valuable nutrient out of the waste stream, but we save a couple of gallons of clean drinking water with every flush that we don't use.  

Grey water systems attached to a shower are another great way to recycle urine: just pee in the shower.
 
Jackie Frobese
Posts: 46
Location: New Hampshire, USA zone 5/6
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Someone is now producing a urine collection systems similar to what is pictured above. It looks like they are hesitant to ship, but maybe that will change.

Here is the link: http://livinglandpermaculture.com/sitzpee/Sitzpee
 
pollinator
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Location: France, Burgundy, parc naturel Morvan
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https://www.kampeermarkt.com/Kampa-Toilet-emmer.html
I've had this one for years, very strong , no stench, because of perfect closing lid, and easy to clean.
It's a dutch website, but the contact details are on top, just click the contact icon, they speak english.
 
Hugo Morvan
pollinator
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I'd like to add, it is much more stable than the ones pictured above, and unisex.
I dump my wee diluded on my comfrey patch which i then compost or use as mulch, just don't like the idea of pouring wee on my lettuce.
 
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Location: Bendigo , Australia
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I was taught to dilute the urine, 10% urine, 90% water and then distribute over the vegepatch.
 
master pollinator
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I typically dilute urine, even fresh, before watering, and sometimes I water it in after.

We have a Flemish Giant rabbit at home, and we use recycled and/or raw wadded paper bedding. The daily clean of her litter box entails scooping poop pellets and peed-on bedding into the compost bin. While I haven't done anything about a permanent, purpose-built urine capture and storage system, I have, in the past and especially in the early spring, to warm things up and get them started, peed into my compost bin on garden or compost days, and emptied it into the composter in the back yard.

There is literally nothing that I have found that works better than urine-soaked paper bedding, rabbit poops, spent coffee grounds, and some kitchen scraps to warm up a dormant compost pile in the spring.

-CK
 
Jackie Frobese
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Location: New Hampshire, USA zone 5/6
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I too used to think urine should be diluted, but as is shown in the original link applying it undiluted is not harmful, in fact the effectiveness of urine as a fertilizer diminishes if it is diluted more than 1:1. Remember that nitrogen (the part plants love and that we don't want in our waterways) is water soluble, so the more water involved in its application the more likely the nitrogen is carried away bypassing the plants and going straight to the waterways.

There are also some major drawbacks to diluting urine before use:
1) this uses water, which in some areas is a scarce resource.
2) it adds to the weight of urine, wich can add up to huge amounts if you are looking at collecting from multiple housholds to fertilize with. One gallon becoming two gallons, or worse yet 20 gallons becoming 40 gallons
3) its an extra step requiring extra labor and time, making it less likely to be a sustainable practice (in terms of time efficiency) when compared the very simple model of pee, flush and done.

That said, if you are diverting your urine it matters far less how you are doing it and far more just that your ARE doing it. So just keep doing it in whatever way is working for you.

Jackie
 
pollinator
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It's time for me to add my two cents......

I've been using urine as a fertilizer on my homestead farm for the past ten years. I use human, dog, and sheep....simply because collection is easy. Humans use a collection funnel, the dog is trained to pee on commend into a basin, and the sheep pee every time I go to do something with them, like trim hooves or administrate dewormer (or even give them a bucket of haycubes!) So it's easy to catch their urine in a small bucket. Perhaps I should also include chicken urine since I use their pen litter in my compost. Urine and homemade composts & mulches are my fertilizers. I do not buy commercial fertilizer.

I do dilute the urine before applying. One gallon of urine is added to a 35 gallon trashcanful of water. Using an immersible pump and garden hose, the urine/water is applied as a normal watering. Urine is applied once or twice a month depending upon the crop and the growing season.

Now let me explain a little about my fertilizing system. I believe in applying small amounts, but frequently. When a crop is first planted, a 1" layer of compost (more if the soil isn't improved very much) is lightly tilled in, along with any added soil amendments that might be called for, such as lava sand, coral sand, char, etc. Mulch is applied to keep the soil surface shaded. Then once a month thereafter until the crop is harvested I apply another mulch layer, or compost if the crop is a heavy feeder. Crops like taro, yacon, corn, pineapples all do better using the compost for mulching. Others do better just using ground up weeds & brush trimming or grass clippings for mulch. At least once a month I also apply the urine/water (or manure water if I don't have enough urine).

The actual nutrient level of the urine or manure water is low, but it is being applied in place of regular irrigation. And it is being applied monthly (certain crops get twice a month applications). Combining this with the slow decomposition of the compost and mulches, I am seeing adequate fertilization without losing excess nutrients to leaching. I take care to avoid leaching when possible, though nature sometimes interferes  with that plan, such as the 10 inches of rain we just got from the passing Hurricane Lane.

I have seen the results of using the urine water versus not. It's not that I am purposely conducting experiments, it's just that I don't have enough urine and manure water to go around. Right now I have multiple beds of turmeric growing. The two beds that I've faithfully used the urine water are decidedly out growing the no-urine beds. Thus I believe the monthly light application of urine definitely works for a small production farm.

I disagree that diluting urine more than 1:1 negates the benefits. With frequent application in small amounts where nutrients are not leached away, but rather captured by the organic matter in the soil, I find diluted urine used as irrigation is beneficial. The trick is to have soil teeming with microbes, and don't overwater so as to cause leaching.

As for the weight issue, I transport the urine as a concentrate. I dilute it at the point of use. It is stored as a concentrate, making storage easy on a small farm. Large commercial farms may have issues, though most are already set up with tractors and spray trailers where liquid fertilizer concentrates are injected into water during application. For home gardens, urine could be applied via a hose using a hozon set up, thus easily diluting it as it is watered in. Since my own operation is beyond home gardening size, plus the fact that I have to truck water to the growing areas, I find the sump pump & hose application works for me. Of course each farmer is different, so application of undiluted urine may be the best way of handling it as a fertilizer. As with most Permie answers, it all depends.
 
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