In­sect-re­pel­lent fer­tiliser for or­ganic use

Irish Examiner - Farming - - TECHNOLOGY FOCUS - — Stephen Cado­gan

A sus­tain­able, com­bined fer­tiliser and in­sect re­pel­lent suit­able for or­ganic farm­ing has been en­gi­neered by a Nor­we­gian com­pany, helped by re­searchers in Ger­many and Hun­gary.

Made from cyanobac­te­ria and fer­men­ta­tion residues from bio­gas fa­cil­i­ties, the Fert­ibug prod­uct is good for the soil and does not harm bees or earth­worms, says the com­pany, Bioskiva.

They aimed to help or­ganic farm­ers keep their plants safe from pests with­out chem­i­cal in­puts.

For ex­am­ple, cab­bage root flies lay their eggs in the spring and au­tumn on freshly planted greens, and an en­tire har­vest could be lost. Now of­fered as a so­lu­tion, the com­bined fer­tiliser and in­sect re­pel­lent pel­lets pri­mar­ily con­sist of fer­men­ta­tion residues from bio­gas pro­duc­tion, but they also con­tain 0.1% cyanobac­te­ria, says Dr Ul­rike Sch­mid-Staiger, group man­ager at the Fraun­hofer In­sti­tute for In­ter­fa­cial Engi­neer­ing and Biotech­nol­ogy (IGB) in Ger­many. Sci­en­tists from IGB worked with re­searchers from the Univer­sity of West Hun­gary, and sev­eral or­ganic agri­cul­ture as­so­ci­a­tions, and their EU-funded re­search find­ings were taken up by Bioskiva and de­vel­oped into a prod­uct.

When the pel­lets are placed around vegetable plants, soil flora de­grade the cyanobac­te­ria, which re­lease a scent that re­pels cab­bage root flies.

The fer­men­ta­tion residues, which are rich in nu­tri­ents, also fer­tilise the plants.

The fer­men­ta­tion residues come from or­ganic farm bio­gas plants which can gen­er­ate 300 litres of bio­gas from a kilo­gram of or­ganic dry mass in two weeks.

Residues that can­not be fur­ther fer­mented are dried and used for the pel­lets.

The re­search team used only light, car­bon diox­ide and min­eral nu­tri­ents to cul­ti­vate cyanobac­te­ria.

The pel­lets have been tested in open-field stud­ies in Spain and Hun­gary.

The re­searchers found that the cab­bage root flies did not at­tack any of the grow­ing cab­bage or kohl rabi, and that the pel­lets had a sig­nif­i­cant fer­til­is­ing ef­fect.

The next phase is to get ap­proval by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion for this brand new ap­proach.

Mean­while, Bioskiva is seek­ing part­ners to get the prod­uct to mar­ket.

See www.fert­­ibug-re­search/re­search-re­sults for more in­for­ma­tion.

The cab­bage fly is one of the pests tar­geted by a new com­bined fer­tiliser and in­sect re­pel­lent suit­able for or­ganic farm­ing.

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