Pee for Peonies: The University of Michigan is Turning Waste Into Something Beautiful
They say one man's trash is another man's treasure, but in the case of two University of Michigan researchers, they're using what other's would consider waste to help grow something beautiful.
Environmental engineering professors Nancy Love and Krista Wigginton are on a mission to spread the golden shower of knowledge that urine based soil can be used as a fertilizer, and that it's not all waste.
If you find yourself at the University of Michigan's Nichols Arboretum, you may find Nancy and Krista applying urine-based fertilizer to the heirloom peony beds ahead of the flowers' annual spring bloom. And while they know people may think it's crazy or funny, they hope that others will soon understand how helpful it can be for the environment as well as water management.
How does urine work as a fertilizer?
You can't just go outside and dump pure urine on your plants and think you're doing the job, however, if you age or dilute the urine, it can be used along with regular watering and healthy soil. The best part of this exercise in "pee-cycling" as they call it, it's all based on science discovered at the University of Michigan itself.
in 2020, they released findings that Recycled and aged human urine can be used as a fertilizer with low risks of transferring antibiotic resistant DNA to the environment.
How are they collecting the urine they use?
No, they aren't just walking up to the flowers and doing their business. According to other reports, the urine-derived fertilizer the researchers are using is currently from Vermont. It won't always be imported, hopefully they'll be using locally sourced fertilizer next year.
Previously, they collected it using a split-bowl toilet in a campus engineering building. The toilet has been designed to send solid waste to a treatment plant, then it sends urine to a holding tank downstairs. The Urine collected from the toilet and urinal were to be treated, then used to create fertilizers. However, COVID-19 pandemic forced the school to shut down the collection efforts for the time being, but they hope to return to self collection soon.
So while it may make you giggle to think about peeing on your Peonies, but sometimes the weirdest solutions make the most beautiful flowers.