Philip Pessar

Manure is a very popular fertilizer. We all know about manure and how well it fertilizes things. But as it turns out, urine may be a good fertilizer too. What we’re hearing is that we’d be doing the world a favor if we stopped using toilets and just dropped trou in a field.

The thing about urine, you see, is that urine has something that plants really need: nitrogen. Farmers in the country of Nepal have been using urine on their crops for centuries, and it works well, or at least they think it does, because they keep using it. But, you know, western science will be the judge of that! So researchers are looking into whether golden showers are the ultimate farming solution. (The nice thing about urine is that unlike commercial fertilizers it is not harmful to the environment. So if it works, that would be great and we want to know.)

To test this hypothesis, scientists devised an experiment involving pepper plants. They fertilized these plants with a combination of urine, compost, and urea, which is essentially the active ingredient in urine. In this study, the plants with the highest concentrations of urine grew the biggest and had the healthiest, largest fruit.

But other studies say urine’s not so great, probably because those studies are prudes. So who knows at this point? It is interesting to note that one of the reasons natural fertilizer is not used more widely is that commercial fertilizer tends to be subsidized by government agricultural spending. So as we pursue whether pee works or does not work as a fertilizer, we might keep in mind that there are those who would be very happy if you sourced your fertilizer from a large company instead of your own bladder.