Using Human Hair as Fertilizer

Though very simple in appearance, hair does add beauty to the human body and has many benefits too. Many elements such as proteins and amino acids, which are further made of COHNS elements, come together to form hair fiber. COHNS comprises of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and sulfur. The overall chemical composition of hair is 45% carbon, 28% oxygen, 15% nitrogen, 7% hydrogen  and 5% sulphur. Using hair as fertilizer is a proven technique of making best from waste. Pounds of snipped tresses that are disposed of as waste can be used as plant fertilizer.

Experiments on hair as a fertilizer

human hair as fertilizer

If you have a garden in your backyard, those clippings or trimming from your tresses or beard can be easily put to use by burying them in the soil for decomposition to get natural good manure. The non-composted hair improves the quality of soil as it slowly releases nutrients.

A study by Mississippi State University has proven this point. It found significant amounts of nitrogen present in human hair than manure which is actually needed and required for growth of plants. The study by Zheljazkoz, an assistant professor in the said university, compared the crop productivity of four crops: lettuce, wormwood, yellow poppy and feverfew which were grown in commercial growth environment  using untreated control, non-composted commercially available hair cubes, controlled-release fertilizer and a water soluble fertilizer.

The result showed that when hair waste cubes were used, the productivity was high as compared to the untreated control. But it is lower than the crops which were given inorganic treatment. This shows hair cannot be sole source of nutrients for faster growing plants and has to be mixed with other components too. Non-composted hair waste is a good source of nutrients for container grown plants.

The Department of agriculture microbiology, KAU, conducted an experiment that involved a thermochemical process for treatment of hair waste. The hair was washed, rinsed to remove all the impurities or chemicals and were dissolved to form a dark solution which was later neutralized. The solution contained high level of nitrogen with potassium and phosphorous in lower quantities (9000ppm). The experiment on plants showed better results than those with normal fertilizer.

How does hair work as fertilizer?

The nitrogen present in the earth’s atmosphere or air is in the form of molecular nitrogen which is of no use to plants. However nitrogen is the most important compound that is required for plants. Plants absorb nitrogen in the form of nitrate and ammonium from the soil. Bacteria in the soil are responsible for conversion of nitrogen into nitrate and ammonium which is done by nitrogen fixation.

Pros and cons of using hair as a fertilizer

There are advantages as well as disadvantages that come along with using human hair as fertilizer.

Advantages:

  • Discarded human hair collected from barbers and salons can be put to further productive use instead of becoming a part of useless garbage.
  • Hair is combined with other compost materials to make a good compost.
  • It is easily available on a large scale.

Disadvantages:

The major disadvantage is that hair decomposes very slowly i.e. the mineralization of human hair takes quite a long time. It takes nearly one to two years for hair to decompose. Also the quality of hair being decomposed and used as manure for edible crops and plants matters a lot. Further research needs to be carried out to determine whether the human waste hair is a viable option as a fertilizer. The health concern is due to the various treatments like coloring and styling that are possibly present in the hair.

SmartGrow hair mats

For people who are uncomfortable using their own tresses or clippings from shaving, SmartGrow, a Florida based company, deals in biodegradable human hair mats. The mats can be placed at the bottom of the plants grown in pots or as a top soil. Traditional herbicides can be replaced by the use of these mats. They help prevent weeds and use of chemical fertilizers or herbicides to get rid of them. The company claims that their product is best for faster growth and more blooms for plants. They help plants grow bigger as the nitrogen content is 15% that is best to retain four times more water than standard soil.

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