Researchers have designed a textile called Plant Armor that forces insects to navigate a maze-like path if they want to reach a farmer’s crop.
Based on their findings, North Carolina State University researchers said the Plant Armor could provide a more effective alternative for insect protection—one that is chemical-free.
“We found it’s possible to use this new technology to protect against insects we didn’t think we could protect against,” said the study’s first author Grayson Cave, a doctoral candidate at NCSU. “We’ve shown we can use a mechanical barrier that will protect against tobacco thrips and possibly other insects, allowing the plant to grow and thrive underneath.”
Previously, plant covers have been designed to exclude insects based on size alone—like a window screen—researchers said. However, that strategy can be problematic for trying to keep out insects as small as tobacco thrips, which are about the size of a pencil point.
“To exclude insects that are really small using traditional textile cover designs, the size of the openings would have to be so small that it would also prevent water, air and moisture from penetrating,” said the study’s senior researcher Mike Roe, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Entomology at NC State. “We had to come up with another way of excluding the insects other than just based on pore size.”
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