Tuesday 14 May 2013

pee glorious pee

warm water and nitrates . . . but not immediately.  The nitrogen in urine is mostly urea (NH2CONH2) and ammonia (NH4+) and so not easily or directly usable by your plants.  They much prefer to obtain their nitrogen as nitrates (NO3-), so depend on the microbes in the soil to do the conversion.  This is done in a two-step process:
1) ammonia to nitrite: carried out by Nitrosomonas
2) nitrite to nitrate: carried out by Nitrobacter.
So that's a reason why it's not efficient to pee straight on your vegetables, the intermediates (and some time) are necessary.  Back of an envelope calculations and a bit of scoping out the internet suggest a) that the average adult voids 1.2 lt (make that 3 yankee pints) a day, mostly water but including about 10g of nitrogen.  This is enough, if spread about judiciously and through the year, to provide 50-100% of the nitrogen requirements for plants sufficient to feed an adult. So that's kind of neat in a self-contained way. But a 1% solution of this stuff is muy potente, not least because urine is also rich in salt, so it's better to cut it 1:10 with water.  I'm glad I found that all out, and therefore I'm glad I got to teach The Nitrogen Cycle for the Environmental Science Module at The Institute

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