Sustainable secret to knee-high corn and gardens galore: human waste-based compost

September 19, 2019

A small plot of corn popped up this spring on The Ohio State University campus and, as the adage goes, the stalks are standing knee-high by the Fourth of July.

The crop is growing in soil amended with Com-Til, a compost product made with residual biosolids from the City of Columbus’ wastewater treatment plants.

The corn patch is the public installment of a research collaboration led by Nick Kawa, assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, and Forbes Lipschitz, assistant professor of landscape architecture at the Knowlton School, to look at the human waste stream. Kawa and Lipschitz are faculty hires in the Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation (InFACT).

Funded by a 2018 InFACT Linkage and Leverage grant, the project considers the long history of using human waste as an agricultural resource – and what that looks like today in central Ohio.

Com-Til is used in landscaping and gardens around the city to grow plants. But it’s just one example of how processed waste from domestic sewage plants – termed biosolids – can be used as a resource for crop production.

Continue learning about how human waste could be used as an agricultural resource.