Ants as a natural pesticide for a wide variety of crops

25-08 | |
Photo: Canva
Photo: Canva

Researchers found ants can replace pesticides to protect crops. In some cases, ants are even better at pest control than commercial pesticides.

A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Brazil, working with one colleague from Spain and another from the U.S., has found evidence that suggests ants can be used as a natural pesticide for a wide variety of crops.

Chinese citrus growers have been using ants for centuries

According to Phys.Org., use of ants to control pests has a long history. Citrus growers in China have been using ants to control pests in fruit trees for centuries. In this new effort, the researchers wondered what other researchers have found when looking into the use of ants as a natural pesticide. They searched for published research papers on the topic and found 52 of them that had involved looking into the use of ants as a way to control pests, covering 17 different types of crops.

The researchers found that most of the studies had led to discoveries of ants providing a high level of pest control. In some cases, the ants were even better at it than commercial pesticides.

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a) - Global distribution of the number of studies considering the effects of ants on the abundance of pests and natural enemies, plant damage and crop yield. Dots indicate the country and dot size represents the number of studies. The gray gradient represents the total number of different crops included in all databases. b) -  Overall effect of ants on the abundance of pests and natural enemies, plant damage and crop yield. Effect sizes and 95% confidence intervals are shown. In parenthesis, the number of effect sizes included in each of the analyses separately. - Source: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2022.1316
a) - Global distribution of the number of studies considering the effects of ants on the abundance of pests and natural enemies, plant damage and crop yield. Dots indicate the country and dot size represents the number of studies. The gray gradient represents the total number of different crops included in all databases. b) - Overall effect of ants on the abundance of pests and natural enemies, plant damage and crop yield. Effect sizes and 95% confidence intervals are shown. In parenthesis, the number of effect sizes included in each of the analyses separately. - Source: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2022.1316

Best results in crops grown in partial shade

They also found that the ants did their best work when used with crops grown in partial shade, and were the least effective when used with crops that produce honeydew. In such plants, ants tended to farm the insects, such as aphids, in order to provide themselves with the sweet liquid.

The researchers conclude by suggesting that the use of ants to control pests appears to be a sustainable and inexpensive way to control pests on both large and small farms.

Claver
Hugo Claver Web editor for Future Farming



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