Online ISSN : 2758-0334
A Short History of the Utilization of Nightsoil in Agriculture
Yuko Shirai Stephen J. LeiszKazutake Kyuma
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2023 Volume 7 Issue 2 Pages 1-24


Stretching into pre-history, and before the development and production of artificial fertilizers, the use of animal and human feces, often referred to as “nightsoil”, were widely used to fertilize agricultural fields. Today, the practice of using nightsoil as fertilizer varies by country and by region, throughout the world. Some countries deal with it as “waste” while others value it as “something that enriches the soil.” Most industrialized countries ceased to use nightsoil due to economic and technological development, finding it more convenient to use artificial chemical fertilizers. However, one of the worries today is the longevity of the availability of the natural resources that are used to make artificial fertilizers and it is now recognized that using nightsoil maintains the recycling rate of essential nutrient elements in the soil better. This paper reviews the worldwide historical use of nightsoil in agriculture. Particular focus is on the traditional use of nightsoil in China and Japan as examples of areas where the use of nightsoil is well accepted and utilized. Histories of nightsoil use in some European and non-European countries are also assessed. After a review of the worldwide historical use of nightsoil, the paper discusses nightsoil treatments and the advantages and disadvantages of its use.

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