A farm in Kentucky could soon become an “alien ant” farm, thanks to a team of local and international researchers.
A recent study has found that the ants have an abundance of a fungus that makes them resistant to many pesticides and herbicides.
The fungus can also help keep the ants healthy and strong, and it also helps protect them from diseases and infections, said David Bostock, an associate professor of entomology at the University of Kentucky and co-author of the study published in the journal Nature Plants.
“It’s really exciting to be working with a fungus species that is so resilient to so many different things, but also so resistant to some of the things we are currently finding in agricultural applications,” he said.
Bostock and his team were inspired by an experiment they had conducted in their lab to see if they could use a fungus to make the ant resistant to pesticides.
The scientists put a sample of the fungus on a piece of paper, put it in a jar and placed it in the fridge.
When the researchers brought the jar to the lab for a few weeks, they saw the fungus growing on the paper.
“I said, ‘What are you guys doing with this fungus?’
They said, we’re just feeding it to our ants and they are thriving,” Bostocks said.
It took the researchers several months to find a suitable source of the fungi.
Bosticks’ team found the fungus in a small field that had been cleared by the U.S. Army to help it fight the fungus that was spreading in Kentucky.
“We’re finding a lot of these [fungi] in the fields of Kentucky, and they’re actually really easy to grow in the soil,” he added.
“So we just wanted to try to make it into a sustainable source of food for these ants.”
The fungus is also an ideal source of a compound that has been shown to be effective at protecting insects from a range of diseases, including anthrax, dengue fever and molds.
“There are a lot more of these kinds of things than we would think,” Bopock said.
“There are all kinds of really interesting and potentially novel compounds that we’ve found in fungus that have a really wide range of applications.”
The fungus can actually be used as a source of energy, as a fuel source, to help the ant survive in very cold weather.
“The team also has other fungi that are more useful to farmers than the one in the jar, which is why they decided to plant them in a field that also had been used to grow other fungi.
The new plants were initially planted as part of a pilot program, but the team hopes to expand the project to other areas of the state in the future.”
What we really like about this project is that we’re using the same species that have been used in a previous experiment to create an entirely new one, and we’re actually getting a lot better results than we anticipated,” Boster said.
The team is working with scientists from Cornell University, the University at Buffalo and the UMass Dartmouth Institute of Applied Science.
Boster and his colleagues hope that the new species can be added to their existing collection of fungi to produce a “super fungus” that can be cultivated in the field and used in agricultural production.”
If you have one of these, you can really make it more sustainable than just a lot that you would buy and plant in a greenhouse,” Batchock said, adding that the fungus is likely to be a sustainable alternative to pesticides and other herbicides used to treat insects.
Boster said he is excited to see the new fungus as a possible way to help farmers who use agricultural chemicals, such as herbicides, to control insects.”
With herbicides and pesticides, we just can’t control all insects, and so it’s very important that we try to use these [new] fungi in a way that can help the insects,” he explained.”
So, if you have an insecticide, or a chemical that we use on our plants, and then you don’t have the fungus to help, then that’s really a very, very, big problem.
So we’re hoping to come up with a solution.