Humans are dependent on agricultural produce to live a healthy life. However, many agriculture producers use pesticides, and when we consume food, we are also consuming chemical pesticides, which is putting our health at risk. To control the ill-effects of external elements added to the soil and plants, scientists executed several experiments. Eventually, they succeeded in preventing unhealthy components in the plant by using some natural phenomena.
For instance, imagine a fungi-based pesticide that could kill all the unwanted insects in the farmlands without causing any harm to the desired living organisms. It sounds unlikely, but it is possible.
Poisoning unwanted things in nature while preserving the required ones is a big business. As per a report published by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) in the year 2012, the sales figure for chemical pesticides within America were reported to be around $14 billion. It means approximately 1.1 billion pounds of chemicals such as arsenic, formaldehyde, and chlorine are added to the farming landscape per year.
At the same time, we need to accept that a sound agricultural setup cannot be created without dealing with unwanted critters present in the farmlands. At the same time, we need to understand the harsh reality that heavy usage of pesticides is harmful to the environment, wildlife, and human beings as well.
In such situations, the idea of developing a pesticide that can protect desired elements while killing the unwanted ones can be beneficial. Mycologist Paul Stamets, in the year 2006, patented two fungus-based insecticides with the same concept. One of these was meant to deal with the termites, carpenter ants, and fire ants, whereas another one was developed to deal with the 200,000 different insect species.
Mushroom spores show repelling behavior towards insects. Conversely, the mushrooms designed by Stamets are delicious to the insect, luring the bug into eating them. Once the bugs have eaten them, the fungi sporulates and sprouts inside them, feeding on their internal tissue until they die, and a tiny mushroom sprouts from their heads, which is how you know it worked. It is essential to mention that although this technology has the potential to change the pesticide industry, the technique is non-toxic to non-targeted living beings including birds, fish, pollinators, and humans.
Same as insects, fungi are considered as living things in nature. They are capable enough to evolve with time and can adapt to new circumstances. Studies reveal that most of the pesticides become ineffective within a few years because insects build up tolerance against them. Similar to other relationships in nature, such as predator and prey, parasite and host, the bio-pesticides based on fungus also adapt with time to hinder the evolving insects. At the same time, they do not cause any harm to wildlife and humans. Hence, mycologists believe mushrooms to be the most relevant solution to avoid chemical pesticides.
At present, mushroom-based pesticides are costly, almost 20 times pricey than the existing pesticides. Also, they are more sensitive to environmental conditions such as humidity and temperature. Nonetheless, scientists are certain that this technology will provide high returns to the agriculture industry and the health of the humans and mammals consuming the products.