If it could help feed the planet, would you be open to eating vegetables fertilised with human pee?
Plants need nutrients to grow. Agriculture relies heavily on chemical fertilisers to provide these nutrients. But what if we tell you we can use pee instead?
Yes, urine might be the solution to all our problems. Before we talk about how it can help let's see why a shift from chemical fertilisers is necessary.
Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are essential for plants and hence agriculture.
For almost a century we have relied on synthetic nitrogen to help boost agricultural production, successfully we might add.
However, synthetic nutrients like nitrogen harm the environment. When used in large quantities, these chemicals seep into waterways, ponds and rivers, giving rise to algae and essentially choking the aquatic life.
Chemical fertilisers also contribute to climate change by creating greenhouse gas emissions.
The nutrients that plants need; nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are present in human pee. As per Engineer Fabien Esculier, OCAPI research programme, we ingest these via food and excrete them through pee.
But a major challenge is to overcome public squeamishness over the use of human excrement for fertilising the food we eat.
As per AFP, a study on this subject found that different nations reacted differently. While China, France, and Uganda were more open to the idea, Portugal and Uganda were hesitant.
If urine is to be used, huge quantities of it would be needed and processed.
Earlier urban excrement along with animal manure was transported to fields before being replaced by chemical fertilisers.
Separating urine at the source would be necessary and as Tove Larsen, a researcher at Switzerland's Eawag aquatic research institute put it; unsightly and impractical, plus the smell will be an issue.
Swiss company Laufen and Eawag are developing a new model to solve this problem.
With the prices of synthetic fertilisers currently soaring because of shortages caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, pee may be the viable and eco-friendly solution to farming we need.