How Russian scientists develop new ways to fight agricultural pests
Pests cause great damage to agriculture and rural residents. Insects already destroy up to 20 percent of the most important grain crops produced globally.
According to a recent study, insect-driven losses of wheat, rice, and maize will increase by 10 to 25% per degree Celsius of warming, hitting hardest in the temperate zone. Scientists in different countries, including Russia, are looking for ways to effectively control pests.
In 2018, Russian scientists studied parasitic fungi, killer organisms that turn insects into zombies. One of them, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, sprouts inside the bodies of ants turning the victim into an obedient puppet. The infected insect wanders in search of a favorable place for the growth of its new owner. Having reached the ideal shelter, the parasitic mushroom paralyzes an insect and slowly kills it. Next, the fruiting body of the fungus springs from the victim's head releasing deadly spores into the air.
Scientists at Moscow State University investigated entomopathogenic fungi in the Cedar Pad reserve in the south-west of Primorsky Krai on the Russian Far East. The reserve has the largest variety of mushrooms of this group in Russia. During the expeditions, mycologists collected hundreds offungi samples growing on insects. As a result, they identified 15 species that parasitize on ants, bees, beetles, and butterflies.
In the future, scientists expect to find out how organisms without a brain have developed the ability to control animals with a brain. Such fungi can be used to control the number of pests, blood-sucking and other harmful insects, affecting them as biopesticides.
Meanwhile, scientists at Ural Federal University found a new way to protect potatoes. Chemists developed methods for obtaining new biologically active compounds with antifungal properties. Researchers managed to create a compound that not only stimulates germination and activates growth, but also contributes to the resistance to infections.
“During the experiment in the open field, an increase in the quantity and quality of the crop was recorded. The results of the assessment of the acute toxicity of this compound in mice, which showed its safety in a single exposure, indicate the promise of creating on its basis preparations for the protection of potatoes and other crops with a more thorough study of its safety,” says Tatiana Glukhareva, an associate professor at the Department of Organic Synthesis Technology at the Institute of Chemical Technology at Ural Federal University.
Elia Kabanov, a Tayga.info science writer (@metkere)