NEW YORK, Sept 3 ― How about using ant colonies instead of fertiliser? This idea could well make its way into vegetable gardens and agricultural crops alike. According to a study, ants could represent an ecological and sustainable alternative to pesticides.
Massively present on the planet, ants are known for not being idle. While some scientists believe that ants have the ability to detect certain types of cancer in humans, these insects can also be valuable to farmers.
A study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggests that ants represent a good alternative to pesticides, which can be harmful for the planet and for health. “We found that ants decrease the abundance of non-honeydew-producing pests, decrease plant damage and increase crop yield,” the researchers write.
According to this meta-analysis, which compiles 52 studies conducted on 17 different crops around the world, the presence of ants in crops helps increase crop yields, since these insects of the Formicidae family feed on all kinds of pests that are harmful to crops ― with the exception of aphids, which produce honeydew, a sweet substance that ants love. As a result, they feed on the substance, while leaving the parasites that produce it alive.
In any case, the introduction of ants remains advantageous to counter the use of pesticides, the researchers assure. While the internet is full of tips and tricks to get rid of ants, we should perhaps be welcoming them with open arms.
One way to attract them, researchers suggest, is to use shaded crops, “as a way to naturally promote ants in crop systems.” Or to create a favourable environment for them by installing nests and food (seeds, plants, bread, sweet liquids, etc.).
In addition to being ecological and 100 per cent natural, this alternative to chemical fertilisers has another important advantage: it requires almost no financial expenditure. “Some ant species have similar or higher efficacy than pesticides, at lower costs,” suggest the scientists who led the study. ― ETX Studio