Can we feed humans by starving agricultural pests?

Amaranth is one of the most consumed leafy vegetables in Africa. Its leaves are a good source of minerals and vitamins. However, its production is constrained by field infestation of Hymenia recurvalis, a major insect pest causing considerable damage to Amaranthfoliage. Plate 1 shows the larvae forms a sheltering web around the leaves and feeds on them until it skeletonizes the foliage

 In order to maximize Amaranth yield and promote food security, there is a need to address the problems constituted by this insect/pest. Pesticides have traditionally played a central role in the control of insect pest populations; however, their off-target actions, toxicity to humans and adverse effects on the environment limit their utility. Furthermore, pesticide resistance is an emerging threat to food production globally. This necessitates the development of alternative approaches to pest control that are affordable, effective and sustainable.

The role of biochemicals in insect plant interactions is currently poorly defined. Understanding how various biochemicals in Amaranth affect the nutritional behaviour of H. recurvalis could be a first step in the development of sustainable and effective biological control strategies, providing an alternative to chemical insecticides.

The main idea is to examine certain biochemicals that are known to deter insect pests in cultivated crops and determine if there is a relationship between them and the abundance of H. recurvalis in Amaranths. This relationship, which will be expressed as a correlation between the quantities of the biochemicals and the population of the insect pest, is expected to form a basis for further research. Specifically, if there is a relationship between the biochemicals and insect pest abundance, collaborations will be made with biotechnologists and geneticists with the aim of producing Amaranth species that are resistant to the insect pest. It is expected that this will lead to a sustainable method of preventing H. recurvalis infestation.

Amaranth farmers, who will no longer need to invest heavily in chemical pesticides, will benefit the most from this translational research. The technology, when adapted to other crops, could revolutionize farming practices and dramatically increase agricultural yields while protecting terrestrial and marine ecosystems from the adverse effects of pesticides.

HOW?

Seeds of Amaranthus species obtained from a research institute in Nigeria based on socio-economic features such as palatability will be planted in a randomized complete block design in four replicates. The comparative field abundance of Hymenia recurvalis on the surface of the leaves of each species will be assessed at two weekly intervals from four weeks after sowing (WAS) till 10 WAS. Following this, relevant biochemicals present in the leaf samples of these Amaranthus species will be quantified at 4, 6, 8 and 10 WAS and their relationship to abundance of Hymenia recurvalis will be determined using descriptive statistics and correlation analyses.

MOTIVATION

I have always been passionate about the provision of sustainable and economical solutions to the problem posed by insect pests to Agriculture. Having investigated the relationship between secondary metabolites and insect pests in various Amaranthus species at masters level, my interest has gravitated towards studying biochemicals present in Amaranthus species and their relationship with H. recurvalis abundance.

Alade Ifeoluwa Adenike, Nigeria

476 comments

  1. It is absolutely impossible to feed human by sending insect pest on hunger strive because larger percentage of human food production Nationwide requires contribution of insect pest. It is generally known that insect pest play a vital role in crops pollination, a phenomenon that agricultural food production wholly depends upon, which can also be achieve through other means like wind or artificially by man. Also, uncontrolled insect pest deteriorate quality of Agriculture produce, reduce their market value and consequently render efforts of farmers worthless.

    In my opinion, insect pest should be restricted to certain stage in some crops, when their aid is required and totally eradicated in those crops that don’t require them for complete food production through application of system pesticides that will only prevent them from feeding and causing their havoc to crops. Therefore, farmers should have knowledge on the type of Crops that needs insect pest for pollination and the stage of production when they are needed as this will not only help maintaining their population but also, ensure right uses of pesticides.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, we can. When agricultural pest are been starved this in turn may lead to reduction in their population and as they reduce there will be increase in food production for human consumption. This will be an interesting research from an awesome researcher.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice one!
      It’s arguably true that biological control of pests is safer and more eco-friendly.
      A breakthrough in this research will mean value-added to crop production at large.

      Like

    1. Increased food production is definitely a necessity in combating food insecurity and malnutrition globally. This innovation will really go a long way in ensuring the objective of food security. Good job.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. its going to be a revolution in crop production if successful.Who wants to keep ingesting chemicals anyway? keep up the good work, maybe a Nobel prize might be in the waiting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very educative and insightful write up. I believe this is much needed in the area of crop protection and food security especially in Africa where we have majority of uncontrolled pest fatalities and underproduction of agricultural produce. As rightly stated, biochemicals will play a better role than the chemical pesticide in preventing infestation of pests on our crops, not only for Amaranths but other pest prone crops as well. Worthy of note is your source of amaranth seeds, ensure that it is carefully well selected ,so as to play produce the best research result. This research will be a ground breaking one.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow! This is such a wonderful idea. I’m sure with your tenacity, you’ll record a ground breaking and sustainable solution. Go, Ife.

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  5. The research is in accordance with plant physiology. You have a good innovation that will increase for production for the world populace.

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  6. Great piece of academic knowledge indeed. You have made some very insightful comments and I believe there’s a takehome form agricultural policy makers and researchers alike.

    Very well done. Pests and humans are correlated and must be dealt with seriously.

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  7. Insightful. The study of biochemical means of protecting crops and edible plant species, not one the subject in the write up, will be beneficial in many ways, environmentally and socioeconomically. Good research work. More power to your elbow.

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  8. With innovations like this coming up, the human race is not so far from perfection. Yes, we can be on top of this pest situation. Keep up the good work!

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  9. Apart from augmenting the sources of food production for human beings, starving the pests to death will also serve the means of protecting our crops. A good innovation indeed

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  10. GREAT……. This is an excellent research proposition with the potential to eliminate the use of pesticides and by extension reduce cost, environmental solution and so on.

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  11. An excellent research proposition. It is innovative and timely. The research will reduce indiscriminate application of insecticides. This will also reduce
    pesticide residues in our commonly consumed vegetable like amaranth and make it safer for consumption.

    Like

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