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Insect Farming Can Prove to be an Added advantage for Crop Production

Insect farming generates a consistent supply of waste products that may be utilized to enrich soils and boost crop growth, research says.

Shivani Meena
Insect Farming
Insect Farming

According to the authors of an Opinion piece published in the journal Trends in Plant Science, farming insects for food and animal feed will take off in the near future. According to the experts, the EU has permitted the introduction of insects into pig and poultry feed, which will assist the newly emerging practice of insect farming. 

Insects are a wonderful source of easily accessible protein, and unlike mammal livestock, the entire insect body is edible. Furthermore, insect farming generates a consistent supply of waste products that may be utilized to enrich soils and boost crop growth. 

Researchers, including Marcel Dicke of Wageningen University, explore the numerous potential benefits of utilizing waste from insect production in circular farming techniques to enhance sustainable agriculture in the publication. According to the authors, this strategy might improve plant growth, health, pollination, and resistance. 

Exuviae (molted exoskeletons or skins) and frass (insect excrement combined with uneaten food) are the two primary types of waste. Both compounds are nutritionally rich and might mix to form an important organic fertilizer, especially as the use of inorganic fertilizers becomes increasingly restricted. Frass is high in nitrogen, which is necessary for plant development but is typically in insufficient supply in the soil. Exuviae also include chitin, which is an amino-sugar polymer. 

"There is a set of bacteria that can degrade chitin, and those microorganisms help plants be more resistant to diseases and pests," Dicke explained. "The populations of those beneficial bacteria grow when exuviae are introduced to the soil." 

The scientists propose that by incorporating waste from insect farms into the soil, microbial populations in the soil could be improved. Microbes are extremely advantageous to plant development, and current agricultural procedures often include inoculating soils with certain types of soil bacteria that promote crop growth, resistance to disease and herbivory, and abiotic condition tolerance. Increasing soil microbes is considered a more appealing alternative to utilizing agrochemicals. 

Inoculating soil with microorganisms, on the other hand, is not always an effective procedure. Instead, the authors of the paper argue that nourishing the soil with organic waste from insect farming will foster the growth of important microorganisms in any event. They propose that crop waste, such as off cut leaves and stems, could be given to insect "livestock." The insects would provide food for humans or livestock such as hens or pigs, and their excrement could be fed into the soil as an organic fertilizer to boost crop development. This kind of circular farming produces nearly no wastage. 

Insects are incredibly efficient to farm, especially when compared to more traditional livestock. It takes around 25 kilograms of grass to create one kilogram of beef. The same quantity of grass can generate 10 times as much edible insect protein. This is because insects are more effective in transforming their food into body mass and because up to 90% of an insect's body mass is edible, compared to just 40% of other livestock. 

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