November 18, 2022
Plants ❤️ (exo)skeletons 💀

Your skeletal gardening superhero - here, we will begin a 4-part series where we do a deep dive on the magic of chitin for plants.

Earlier in our blog series we highlighted the overall benefits of chitin. Today, we’ll be discussing how incredible chitin is as a fertiliser.

What is chitin?

We gave a brief introduction to chitin, but for completeness we’ll quickly discuss it again. 

Chitin is a polysaccharide - basically a long carbohydrate molecule made up of smaller molecules called monosaccharides. This fibrous substance is actually found everywhere - it’s the second most abundant polysaccharide behind cellulose and is common in fish scales, fungi cell walls, and insect and crustacean exoskeletons.

How chitin delivers soil nutrients

Chitin is actually very rich in several minerals and nutrients, including nitrogen. With a nitrogen content ranging from around 6-8%, chitin has comparable levels to other organic fertilisers such as bone meal and dried blood.

Chitin is special because it can quickly be utilised by plants as a nutrient source AND is stable enough to be stored as a dry product for long periods of time. When added to the soil, microbes break the polymer down which releases inorganic nitrogen and allows the organic nitrogen of the monosaccharides to be utilised. 

To add to this, chitin is also rich in minerals such as calcium, which are also delivered to plants to promote and aid in plant nutrition.

The beauty of chitin does not stop there. In fact, the microbial breakdown of chitin is slowest in cold conditions. This means that the inorganic nitrogen will not be broken down in winter when the plants do not need them as much, which acts to naturally minimise the leaching of nitrogen from soils into waterways.

Black soldier flies and chitin

As we mentioned before, chitin is present in insect exoskeletons - and the black soldier fly is no exception. It is found in the husks of black soldier fly larvae (BSFL), which are typically ‘waste products’ of black soldier fly farming.

According to some scientists in the US and Europe, chitin from insects such as BSFL is 20 to 50 times superior to chitin from crustaceans, partly because it does not have calcium salts and fluorine compounds and therefore makes it more biologically active.

At Bardee, we pride ourselves on our commitment to plant nutrition and health. In addition to our incredible BSFL frass, we blend chitin into Superfly, Superfly Pellets and Superfly Low Odour products. For anyone looking for a really big boost, check out our Superfly Chitin Concentrate, made from 100% milled exoskeletons.

If you any questions about how you can use chitin to help your own garden, please get in touch!

Raghav Sharma

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The fifteenth element on the periodic table. One of the three main macronutrients needed for plant growth and vitality. As part of the Green Revolution, we started mining phosphate rock to unlock 10X crop yields. As a result, fertilisers today are packed full of phosphorus, allowing our crops to grow strong and healthy. So what’s the problem?
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