Professors Push for Putting the ‘Pee’ in Peony


A pair of researchers are putting pee on peonies in an attempt to educate the public that using fertilizer derived from nutrient-rich urine could have multiple benefits.

With spring in the air, environmental engineering professors from the University of Michigan, Nancy Love and Krista Wigginton have been spending more and more time visiting Nichols Arboretum. Here is where they have been applying urine-based fertilizer to the heirloom peony beds ahead of the flowers’ annual bloom.

“At first, we thought people might be hesitant. You know, this might be weird. But we’ve really experienced very little of that attitude. In general, people think it’s funny at first, but then they understand why we’re doing it and they support it,” Wigginton said.

Love is a co-author of a study published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal that found urine diversion and recycling led to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and energy.

Urine contains a number of different nutrients, including nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, and has been used as a crop fertilizer going back thousands of years. Collecting human urine and using it to create sustainable, resource-rich fertilizers can lead to great environmental and economic benefits.

The professors have come up with the term ‘pee-cycling’ to highlight the environmental benefits of urine. “We were looking for terms that would catch on but get the idea across, and ‘pee-cycling’ seems to be one that stuck,” Wigginton said.

Love and Wigginton plan to spend weekends in both May and June talking to visitors and gathering more information on the public’s reaction to ‘pee-cycling.’


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