Australian company, Innovate Ag, has concocted a completely natural insecticide that deters all the little critters who love to nibble away at your crops, while also giving your plants a nutrient boost. If these two massive benefits weren’t enough, it is also completely bee-friendly, meaning you can spray it anytime, anywhere without having to worry about damaging our dwindling (but incredibly important) bee population.
The bio-insecticide is made from Butterfly pea. Say that out loud and it sounds like something kinky involving one of these guys:
Where the pesticide actually comes from is the equally suggestive Clitoria ternatea (aka, the butterfly pea). Blue though it may be, you can see where it gets its name.
Using Butterfly pea as an insecticide
Innovate Ag’s product is called Sero-X and was developed from the discoveries of NSW Department of Primary Industries scientist, Dr Robert Mensah. While working in Wee Waa at at the Australian Cotton Research Institute, Dr Mensah noticed the insects who were problematic to cotton crops had no desire whatsoever to go near the Butterfly pea.
This launched him on an adventure in scientific trials through which he was able to prove that, not only did the insects not eat Butterfly pea, they actively avoided it. As it turns out, Butterfly pea contains cyclotides and peptides which turns insects off their dinner. Spraying it on your crops will send pests packing while leaving the more open-minded bees unperturbed.
The beautiful thing about plant-based alternatives in farming is that they often serve more than just their intended purpose. The plant world has a knack for creating multiply co-beneficial symbiotic relationships and Sero-X is no exception. As macadamia farmer, James Thomas, explained to the ABC:
“When Sero-X breaks down it becomes an amino acid which the plant uses as a growth promotant, so the nuts seem to be bigger where we use Sero-X.”
James was the first farmer to switch to Sero-X and is stoked with the results.
“I don’t have to wait one or two weeks until the bees are finished, I can just spray exactly when I need it to get the best use of the product and the bees will continue to feed and pollinate the flowers.”
Until the advent of Sero-X, growers like James faced potential crop losses of up to 50% if they didn’t cave and use synthetic pesticides.
“There’s more reliance on less specific, more broader spectrum synthetic pesticides which have a lot more affect on our pollinators. There’s three basic pesticides and they all have major constraints and it’s a big juggling act to not damage pollinators, moving hives around lots of growers have had issues with bee kills.”Neil Innes, agronomist for the Macadamia Industry Board
Sero-X has the power to take the pressure off farmers and bee-keepers alike. As our farming land expands, and pesticide drift along with it, many bee-keepers have been forced to move their operations in the face of completely unintentional genocide of their bee populations.
Why it’s so important to save our bees
About a third of what you eat couldn’t have gotten to your mouth without the work of bees. Without them, we would be at risk of complete collapse of many of the crops we rely on including:
- Grapes (read wine);
- And many more.
Bees are the unsung heroes of humanity so any discovery that allows us to keep them healthy and happy is a vital win for both our species.