photo d'une coccinelle sur une feuille

Eat more bugs and use their waste to farm!

A plant ecologist named Dicke suggested eat more insects and use their waste to cultivate.

During the process of insect production, we recover exuviae, exoskeletons left after moulting, and excrement. According to the environmentalist, “Faces are uneaten food! ».

The insect droppings are rich in nitrogen. This nutrient is essential for plant growth, but rare are the soils that have it. It is therefore added to crops in synthetic fertilizers. Insect exoskeletons are rich in chitin. This polymer is difficult for most organisms to digest. When exuviae and feces are added to the soil, they promote growth and plant health.

One food system circular with almost zero waste

Apply products from theinsect breeding to cultures is described by Dicke and his team as an innovative process. It would be a step towards a food system circular in which there are very little waste. The insects are fed on waste from agriculture or food production. They then provide food for humans.

Insects are easy to breed, especially when compared to more traditional livestock. It takes about 25 kilograms of grass to produce one kilogram of beef. The same amount of grass can produce ten times more insect proteins. 90% of an insect’s body mass is edible, compared to only 40% for a cow.

Insects act as bodyguards for the plant

There is, however, a set of bacteria that can metabolize chitin, according to Dicke. These microbes help plants be more disease resistant and parasites. Adding the exuviae to the soil increases the populations of these beneficial bacteria.

Researchers plan to continue to study the potential of exuviae as a means of pest control. When a plant is attacked by an insect, its leaves can produce volatile substances that attract the pest’s predators.

“I call this the plant’s cry for help. She recruits bodyguards. »

Mr. Dicke

Dicke and his team believe that a similar process could occur through plant roots. By breaking down pathogenic fungi and making the plant resilient to pests, microbes that digest the chitin in insect waste protect the plant.

“Studies have already shown that root-associated microbes help plants by protecting them against disease. We are now investigating whether plant roots recruit microbes that help them defend against pests. »

Mr. Dicke


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