Brit Liggett

Discovery in Insect Skin Could Lead to Chemical Free Insecticides

by , 09/24/11
filed under: Botanical, News

chemical free insecticide, non toxic insecticide, pesticides, insecticides, toxic chemicals, toxic fertilizers, chemical fertilizers, agricultural pollution, pollution from farming

The discovery of a protective protein in the skin of insects could help scientists develop a chemical-free insecticide. When insects are molting they secrete an enzyme that dissolves their old skin, and Sujata Chaudhari from Kansas State University discovered that a protein present in the new skin of insects called the Knickkopf protein protects the new skin from dissolving along with the old. Chaudhari and her colleagues believe that developing a mechanism to shut off the Knickkopf protein would keep crops bug free without toxic chemicals.

chemical free insecticide, non toxic insecticide, pesticides, insecticides, toxic chemicals, toxic fertilizers, chemical fertilizers, agricultural pollution, pollution from farming

The enzyme that dissolves the old skin is called chitinase. “Think of Knickkopf as a fire retardant, chitinase as a fire, and the insect’s cuticle as the wall of a house,” noted Subbaratnam Muthukrishnan. Muthukrishnan is an adviser to Chaudhari, a collaborator on the study and a professor of biochemistry at Kansas State University. “During molting, it’s like the house is on fire, but the fire is only burning things on the outside. Everything inside is safe because there’s a fire retardant wall.”

The group was studying the red flour beetle when they discovered the Knickkopf protein. Chaudhari believes that this enzyme and protein relationship is probably present in all insects that molt. They believe that now that they understand this relationship they’ll be able to develop interfering RNA’s to put on crops that would make insects vulnerable to disease and lower populations. Though we’re not huge fans of killing off whole hoards of insects — ecosystems are delicately balanced things — at least this method doesn’t pollute groundwater, soil and cause illness in people that live in the general vicinity of farms.

Via Science Daily

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3 Comments

  1. betsybugs1 September 24, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Now that is so cool if that can happen you wouldn’t have to worry exceedingly about th efood at the supermarket. Lots of discussion should be going on about this I’m surprised there isn’t more. I’ll pass it onto my gemini c group and friends over at walton. Chemical free is a definite cool to me.

  2. kdel September 23, 2011 at 11:34 am

    so a “mechanism” that destroys bugs without harming “us humans” is ok? Haven’t we learned yet that we do not know better than nature? Like the corn that kills the Monarch butterfly—unintended consequences, we are not smart enough to think of all the possible ramifications before we destroy a species. That is what will happen as the RNA gets spread by pollination and hybridization those bugs will be gone, but what about what feeds on them? They’ll go too, then what feeds on them, etc. until we have nothing left but us? Count me out of this plan.

  3. tribyen September 23, 2011 at 11:31 am

    The title is misleading – even RNA is a biochemical compound. It’s accurate to say it would not contain toxic chemicals, but nothing involving biochemistry is “chemical free”.

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