Bangalore, May 29: Nagasandra, a village 50 km from Bangalore in Doddaballapur taluk, isn’t any different from the hundreds of others surrounding it. But in a remote corner of this small village is a 1-acre banana plantation that has been part of a unique research project: a study on the effect of anthropogenic liquid waste on soil properties and crop growth. In lay-man terms, it is a study on how human urine can be used as fertilizer in agriculture.
G Sridevi, a second-year PhD student at the Department of Soil Sciences and Agricultural Chemistry, University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), GKVK, conducted a study on the effect of human urine on various crops under C A Srinivasa Murthy, professor at the department. Sridevi got the support of Prakash and his family, who own the plantation, to experiment on their field. However, her idea was met with resistance from villagers, who were unwilling to work with human waste. Along with an assistant, she adopted 150 banana plants of the 800 on Prakash’s plantation, and carried thousands of litres of urine from the village to the plantation.
Each plant was given 63 litres of urine in six doses. It was found that these plants flowered and bore fruit about 15-20 days before the others. Each bunch weighed about 3 kg more than those from normal plants, which were given fertilizers. The income from the land is also expected to increase at no extra cost to farmers.
Vishwanath S, representing Arghyam, the agency that funded the research, said this was an attempt to link sanitation to agriculture, the chief problem being how to connect toilets to the place of cultivation. For the research, ‘eco-san’ toilets were set up around the village.
The plantation also got liquid waste from the local school and college hostel at Doddaballapur. Vishwanath said GKVK planned to set up a centre of excellence for eco-san toilets to further the research.
Prakash said his plantation contained ‘yelakki’ variety of banana. He gave 5 guntas for the research. “I invested Rs 35,000 on fertilizers for the rest of the plants. The plants which were given urine yielded fruit earlier than the others. We have already cut five bunches that weigh 122 kg. The urine-treated plants grew to a lesser height than the others but yielded better crop,” he said.
A kilogram of the popular variety earns the farmer Rs 14-15 (raw) and Rs 16-17 (ripe). The horticulture department gives a subsidy of Rs 6,000 per acre in two instalments, up to 10 acres.
Though the use of human excreta in agriculture is not new, the doctoral study is claimed to be the first of its kind in the country. Countries like Sweden and China have conducted research in the area and UAS was urged to look into possible collaborations with other institutions around the world.