Ozone is a safer and greener alternative to toxic insecticides
12/03/2018 // Ralph Flores // Views

People who are looking for natural alternatives to synthetic insecticides need not look any further than a gas found in the atmosphere. In a recent study, researchers from the Universidad Centroccidental Lisandro Alvarado in Venezuela suggest using ozone, a naturally occurring gas in the stratosphere, to get rid of insect pests. Their findings, which appeared in the journal Idesia (Arica), looked at whether ozone was effective when used against the cigarette beetle, a particularly damaging insect pest in many agricultural crops, including tobacco, flour, chocolate, breakfast cereals, and animal foods.

Scientists have long considered the potential of ozone in agriculture. In an article for The Global Scientists, Nahed Msayled of Iowa State University identified the compound's ability to protect against microbes, including pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and fungi, thanks to its oxidizing properties. Ozone is a common ingredient in disinfectants, such as that used in both drinking water and wastewater. In agriculture, the gas is used to inhibit the growth of mold in corn during storage and prevent the activation of pathogens and spoilage after harvesting fruits and vegetables.

Ozone has a short half-life, quickly decomposing into oxygen, which makes it an environment-friendly alternative to synthetic pesticides which adversely impact the environment with their residual toxins and persistent pollutants.

A separate study by Aarhus University Danish Centre for Food and Agriculture proffered similar results. In their study, they found that a low concentration of ozone was as effective as conventional pesticides in controlling the pests. They also revealed that ozone can even affect different development stages of the insect -- something that commercial pesticides cannot do. This was true for insects such as grain weevils, lesser grain borers, flour beetles, and several species of moth -- all of which are known to cause great damage to stored food products.


The damage caused by pests isn't a trivial matter. Industrialized countries lose up to 9 percent of their stored grain because of these pests. However, developing countries have it worse -- losing up to 20 percent of their stored grain. This, in turn, can drive prices up in the market.

For this study, researchers used two metallic silos (a place where they hold grains). One silo was filled with maize, while the other one was empty. The team then placed cigarette beetles in each of the silos and treated both areas with ozone. In addition, the silos were treated in 15-minute intervals after the beetles were introduced. The team replicated the experiment five times, after which the resulting data was interpreted.

Based on the results, ozone exhibited a significant insecticidal effect, as observed in the mortality rates of the beetles after exposure. The beetles in the empty silo were the most affected, with over half of the sample insects dying after exposure. The team found the same result with exposure time and interaction: More beetles died after being exposed to ozone or after interacting with the compound, over time.

For the researchers, this means that ozone has the potential to be used as a natural insecticide to manage pests in grains and stored food. (Related: New, all-natural pesticide unveiled by scientists - and it won't kill the bees!)

Learn more about natural pesticides for your crops at Harvest.news.

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