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‘Armor’ prevents insects from eating crops

AmericaResearchers have developed a material with a maze-like structure that prevents small pests from getting close to plants.

Insects are prevented outside of the Plant Armor grid.  Photo: Grayson Cave

Insects are prevented outside of the Plant Armor grid. Image: Grayson Cave

With all crop cover materials, the mesh size determines the size of the pests that are prevented from being outside. However, microscopic insects such as thrips are small enough to crawl through the mesh in today’s products. If the mesh production is small enough to prevent thrips, the amount of air, water or sunlight reaching the plant will not be large enough. In search of a more efficient solution, scientists at the University of North Carolina developed an experimental “Plant Armor” consisting of three layers of woven mesh.

The outermost and innermost layers are made of plastic fibers. The middle clamp is another layer with the fibers lying perpendicular to those in the other two layers. The team’s idea was that if the insects were small enough to get through the surface of the material, the maze-like structure inside would make it difficult for them.

In one experiment, researchers placed 10 thrips in a shallow dish along with cabbage leaves protected by Plant Armor or a current mulching material. As a result, the insects took 3 hours to get through the Plant Armor while it took them only 12 minutes to get through the remaining product.

In another experiment, the team placed both plants covered with Plant Armor and uncovered cabbage in cages with hungry worms. Unprotected cabbage plants are quickly eaten up while there are no worms on the covered plant, even after 10 days. Finally, comparing cabbage plants grown in net-covered fields and uncovered fields, the protected plants grew and weighed an average of three times more after 3 months.

Since Plant Armor is independent of mesh size, plants still have enough air, water and light. In addition, PhD student Grayson Cave, lead author of the study published in the journal Agriculturethe material is not only reusable but also made from recycled materials.

“We realized we could use this new technology to protect plants from microscopic insects like thrips, allowing plants to thrive under nets,” Cave said.

An Khang (According to New Atlas)

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