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Can nettle revolutionize farming?

April 14, 2011
The Inter-Mountain

Ten farmers in West Virginia and two farmers in Ohio intend to research the use of stinging nettle (Urtica dioca L.) as a potential organic fertilizer. Previous studies indicate fermented or fresh stinging nettle water makes a good fertilizer.

To examine fertilization efficacy, stinging nettle tea and hydrosol will be applied to tomato plants as a foliar spray. The results of the applications of the formulas will be compared with a commercial organic fertilizer and a control bed.

Because stinging nettle is easy to grow almost anywhere in the world, the use of it as a fertilizer could greatly enhance the organic farmers' produce and soil while saving time, energy, money and the environment. Environmental costs of delivering fertilizers from great distances, thus increasing our carbon footprint, would also be eliminated or greatly reduced. Petroleum products, including fertilizers, are becoming more and more expensive for farmers to use and they also gradually kill the ground on which they are applied, whereas organic fertilizers such as compost and compost teas actually improve the soil on which they are applied. If farmers could obtain their fertilizers from their own farms, or locally, storage would be greatly reduced, and costs would be only in time.

Research and use of stinging nettle as a fertilizer has shown it to be successful in France, Germany, England, Africa and other countries. However, in the United States, most research has been done on how to eliminate it rather than use it.

On April 3, interested farmers met at La Paix Herb Farm in Alum Bridge to discuss the efficacy of doing the stinging nettle research as volunteers. Those who decided to participate are Myra Bonhage-Hale, La Paix Herb Farm, Lewis County; Eva Ristl and husband, Left Fork Farm, Roane County; Alexandria Straight, Ronan Straight, Hans Straight, Bare Creek Farm, Ritchie County; Robert and Busie Barbour, Thistlenook Farm, Upshur County; Dean McIlvine, Carmella Massara Twin Parks Farm, West Salem, Ohio; Bart and Andrea Lay, Hidden Hollow Farm; Melissa Dennison and husband, Garden Treasures, Roane County; Chef Dale Hawkins, Fish Hawk Acres, Upshur County.

More information on this project may be found at

The Ohio organic farmers do not have stinging nettle growing on their farm. If anyone in Lewis County or surrounding counties has stinging nettle which they want to have harvested within the next month or so, contact Bonhage-Hale at



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