Sustainable insecticide and soil enhancer reduces aphid numbers significantly

Maynooth University and Irish SME Hexafly BioTech have pioneered a sustainable insect-based soil enhancer that boosts soil health and significantly reduces greenfly on cereal plants.

 Prof Kevin Kavanagh, of the Department of Biology at Maynooth University, and Hexafly, are pioneering the use of insects and insect-based products for inclusion in feeds and as plant nutrients.

 Barley aphids or greenfly are particularly difficult to control with traditional chemical insecticide, wreaking havoc in farms and causing substantial economic loss in agriculture. However, new research shows that an insect-based soil enhancer Hexafrass, is proving highly effective in fighting the pest.

 The soil enhancer Hexafrass, derived from the waste product of black soldier flies, boosts soil health and actively promotes root development and plant growth. 

The research, funded by SSPC the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Pharmaceuticals, has found that plants growing in treated soil had reduced aphid infestation numbers and enhanced natural defence against disease. 

 Investigating the cause for the reduction in aphid numbers, Prof Kavanagh and Dr Anatte Margalit, a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Biology, used proteomic analysis (a form of genetic analysis of proteins) to reveal that aphids feeding on plants cultured in Hexafrass were rendered infertile due to changes in their internal biology.

 Prof Kavanagh said: “This discovery creates the possibility of a highly effective and environmentally sustainable method of controlling aphid populations.”