Chemical pesticides have been used in large scale operations since the ending of World War II. The effects of these pesticides on the environment and human health encourages the development of alternatives, such as entomopathogenic fungi. These fungi control pests by growing into their hemolymph fluid. Compared to chemical pesticides, Entomopathogenic fungi are more selective in the insects they kill because specific enzymes are required to pierce the cuticle of different insects. Although both chemical pesticides and fungi can push insects to constantly evolve and adapt in order to maintain relative fitness, fungi are less toxic. While chemical pesticides have shown a strong persistence in soil, entomopathogenic fungi are naturally occurring in most soil. However, the species of fungi that are present are dependent on habitat type. Introducing new entomopathogenic fungi, or changing their abundance, has the potential to disrupt the soil ecosystem. The lower efficacy of entomopathogenic fungi provides the strongest evidence as to why fungi are not currently being used at a large scale. Entomopathogenic fungi have, comparably, a lower rate of resistance and environmental impact than chemical pesticides, however the fungi lack the ability to kill as many insects as quickly. Entomopathogenic fungi show great promise as a bio pesticide, but are not yet ready to be used as a large scale alternative to chemical pesticides. With continued research to increase the efficacy and to manufacture at a scale to support their use, it is possible that in the future these fungi can fully replace chemical pesticides.
Han Smith is a senior at Salem College, majoring in Biology and Chemistry. They are from Belews Creek North Carolina. They are a member of Sights and Insights, Mortar Board, and a residential assistant.
I've got a soft spot for fungi. And for Lewis Carroll--that opening slide is awesome!
Congratulations, Han! I enjoyed your presentation and look forward to the Q & A tomorrow afternoon.
Fungi > pesticides any day!
Job well done!