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SUSTAINABILITY

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16 June 2015

Instead of pesticides, a blue light

A “curious” discovery from Japan that reduces the use of chemicals in farming and increases sustainability.

There are many potentially revolutionary innovations and discoveries, but only time brings them to prominence. That’s what environmentalists are saying about the blue LED lights being used to replace insecticides and pesticides. Can this new solution really free plants from pests without polluting the air, land or water and without harmful effects on the health of humans and animals?

This scientific story of the twenty-first century, started with an announcement from Tohoku University, Japan, and, following many experiments, a study published a few months ago in the journal “Nature”.

Japanese scientists identified a weapon that was 100% effective against the fruit fly in the blue wavelength of 467 nanometers. By contrast, ultraviolet light with a wavelength of 378 nanometers produced results that were 40% effective with their sample and also carried health risks for mammals.

But that’s not all. It seems that the different wavelengths could kill various insects and that this technology could be used successfully in both developed and developing countries. Crucially, it could be able to eliminate “parasites” selectively, leaving friendly insects unharmed. It seems to be the solution to make our food healthier.

The only flaw is the amount of energy needed to apply the blue LED light to an entire arable field. This is an important economic factor. However, considering the money already spent on the production of insecticides and pesticides, their use on crops and the healthcare costs of related illnesses, increased investment in research to improve the technology is justified.
Indeed, if it were possible to turn blue light into a cost-effective solution, then farmers would definitely abandon pesticides.

The study is of great interest and looks promising, but there is still some way to go before LED light replaces chemical insecticides and pesticides.

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