November 10, 2015
Pests have always threatened the life of crops. In fact, that’s probably why they’re called “pests”. Traditionally, pesticides and other chemicals have been used to protect plants from the ravages of pests. However, these chemicals bring side effects, many of which we have yet to fully understand. That’s why researchers are now toying with the idea of a completely non-chemical way to repel pests: sound waves.
The process is a little more complicated than one might think at first. In Florida the Asian citrus psyllid, which wreaks havoc on orange groves every year, was the first species for the technique to be tried on. In mating season, the psyllid sends vibrations along leaves and branches via its wings to attract potential mates.
Researchers are using devices to detect this mating “call” and then emit a fake female response; when the male phyllid goes off in the direction of the female call, he gets trapped on an adhesive surface. While this process has only been tested in laboratory settings, it is hoped to make a debut in the threatened Florida orange groves soon.
Right now, the device that makes all of this possible is fairly expensive, especially for one who may own hundreds of acres of vineyards or orange groves. However, as technology improves and the price is able to decrease, this acoustic insect repellant may just be the way of the future. It may not completely eliminate the need for pesticides, but would be able to increase pests’ sensitivity to pesticides, therefore requiring fewer chemicals to be effective in the preservation of crops.
Sound waves have also been used in different arenas to trap mosquitoes, field crickets, moths, cockroaches, and more. Acoustic devices have also been used to mimic bat cries, which could deter insects at night. While this arena may have far to go, it is certainly promising for the future of pest control.
Not only will acoustic pest control reduce the amount of pesticides in the environment (therefore decreasing pollution in the air and waterways), it will also allow food to grow more abundantly.