||This article appears to be written like an advertisement. (August 2013)|
Milorganite is the trademark of a biosolids fertilizer produced by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. The District captures wastewater from the metropolitan Milwaukee area, including local industries. This water is then treated at the Jones Island Water Reclamation Facility in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with microbes to digest nutrients that are found in it. Cleaned water is then returned to Lake Michigan. The resulting microbes are then dried at temperatures ranging from 900⁰-1200⁰F. Surviving pathogens are unlikely and daily tests confirm the absence of pathogens. The Milorganite program is one of the world’s largest recycling efforts; the low impact formulation was designed to recycle valuable nutrients for use on turf and gardens, reducing the need for manufactured nutrients or mined materials for fertilization. Milorganite contains virtually no salts, so it never burns plants – even in the hottest temperatures and driest conditions. You also don’t have to water it in; it will stay in the soil ready to work when moisture comes later. Each application feeds for 8-10 weeks, resulting in fewer applications.
Heat dried biosolids contain slow release organic nitrogen, largely water insoluble phosphorus bound with iron and aluminum and high organic matter. Milorganite releases 85% of its nitrogen slowly as your turf grows, generating balanced growth. Milorganite’s 4% Iron enhances the color of your turf throughout the 8-10 week. Milorganite is sold throughout the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean as a golf course and home lawn and garden fertilizer. The name Milorganite is a contraction of the phrase Milwaukee Organic Nitrogen, and was the result of a 1925 naming contest held in National Fertilizer Magazine. Raising taxes for public health was relatively controversial in the early 1900s. In 1911, reform minded socialists were elected on a platform calling for construction of a wastewater treatment plant to protect against water borne pathogens. Experiments showed that heat dried activated sludge pellets "compared favorably with standard organic materials such as dried blood, tankage, fish scap, and cottonseed meal." Sales to golf courses, turf farms and flower growers began in 1926. Milorganite was popularized during the 1930s and 1940s before inorganic urea became available to homeowners after WWII. University research confirms anecdotal evidence that applying Milorganite on lawns and near plants deters deer due to its odor. However, the manufacturer cannot market Milorganite as a deer repellent because it is not registered as a "pesticide." Therefore, repelling hungry deer from Hostas remains an "off-label" use.  Milorganite is tested daily for the presence of heavy metals and pathogens. Milorganite surpasses the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) "Exceptional Quality" criteria, which establishes the strictest concentration limits in the fertilizer industry for heavy metals, allowing Milorganite to be used on food crops. Milorganite is also certified by the USDA as a bio-based product since it is derived from renewable materials. The EPA's "Exceptional Quality" criteria was changed significantly, allowing for a higher levels of toxins. Lead, for example was raised from 111 to 267 pounds per acre. Arsenic was raised from 12.5 to 36 pounds per acre. Mercury from 13.4 to 50 pounds per acre, and chromium from 472 to 2,672. This allowed fertilizer of this type to be more widely accepted and used.
- Matt Miller and George A. O'Connor, Longer-term Phytoavailability of Biosolids-Phosphorus, 101 Agronomy J. 889-896 (2009) or puri.fcla.edu/fcia/etd/UFE0022710
- Chifford Mortimer, The Lake Michigan Pollution Case, Center for Great Lakes Studies, UWM (May 1981), p. 2-3 (fig. 1, incidence of typhoid fever compared to water purification and wastewater treatment improvements).
- Eleventh Annual Report of the Sewerage Commission of the City of Milwaukee for 1924, pages 32–42.
- See, North American's Most Widely Known, Respected, and Beloved Turfgrass Agronomist, The O.J. Noer Research Foundation, Inc., Michigan State U. Libraries, Turfgrass Information Center, www.lib.msu.edu/tgif.
- EPA derails plans to market Milorganite as deer repellent, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, January 18, 2009
- National Biosolids Partnership newsletter January 22, 2009
- Using Milorganite to Repel White-Tailed Deer from Flowering Perennials, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension
- Using Milorganite to temporarily repel white-tailed deer from food plots, Odin L. Stephens, et al., WSFR - Wildlife Management Series No. 2, March 2005