Ahhh chitin. It’s a superstar. In part one, we chatted through how chitin from insect exoskeletons can deliver nutrients and minerals to plants. Now, its time to dive into one of the other incredible abilities of chitin - fighting off pathogens such as fungi, bacteria and nasty nematodes.
A lot of attention is directed at making plants grow healthier and stronger, but an equally important consideration is to protect these plants from diseases. We’re going to focus on three types of bad guys: fungi, bacteria, and nematodes.
Certain types of fungi are very harmful to plants and can cause a number of diseases. These include white mold on beans, gummy stem blight on berries, and powdery mildew on carrots. Bacteria that are pathogenic to plants enter through wounds and can cause a range of symptoms - wilts, leaf spots, specks and blights, and galls, just to name a few. And finally, nematodes. Over half of all nematode species are parasitic. They break into the roots of plants, traversing through plant tissue and breaking down cells as they feed themselves. This also opens up wounds for bacteria to enter.
These three types of pathogens are a serious threat to your plants. To fight against them, you need a true garden superhero.
Alongside providing nutrients and minerals to plants, chitin has also been shown to help plants fight off bad bacteria, fungi and nematodes. But how?
Well, chitin is a sneaky protector - specifically against fungi and bacteria. While it doesn’t have ‘direct’ antimicrobial activity, the by-products from chitin decomposition are the fighters. When a plant is under attack, enzymes are released by the plant to break down chitin into smaller compounds. These compounds are recognised by the plant and trigger a series of responses by the plant to strengthen its defences. By firing up the ‘immune system’ of the plant, chitin provides the tools for plants to fight against bacterial and fungal diseases.
Chitin has also been proven as a great control for pathogenic nematodes. This has been found in studies since the 1980s, where chitin-based products have demonstrated impressive results in nematode reduction. While the exact mechanism remains unclear, scientists have two ideas - either that chitin promotes microbial growth that kill off nematode eggs, or that the breakdown of chitin in soil releases levels of ammonia that act as poison to pathogenic nematodes.
At Bardee, black soldier flies (BSF) are our heroes. Every day, they process tonnes of food waste in our vertical farming system and are the powerhouse recyclers that create our certified-organic fertiliser and nutritious insect protein.
But that’s not all - the husks of black soldier fly larvae and the exoskeletons of black soldier flies in fact contain chitin. We blend BSF-derived chitin into our Superfly, Superfly Pellets and Superfly Low Odour products. If more chitin is what you’re after, check out our Superfly Chitin Concentrate.
If you’re keen to give it a try for yourself, you can check out the range here, or reach out to one of the Bardee team if you have any questions.