Bunnies beware: Britain's significant rabbit problem could be eliminated simply by dusting slag on wheat fields, reports Tom Hopkinson in Chemistry & Industry, the magazine of the SCI.
In the UK alone, rabbits cause an estimated £115m worth of damage annually.
Researcher David Cowen and his team at Central Science Laboratory showed that applying slag to wheat growing in greenhouses had no effect on yield, but caused the plants to incorporate the silica and express it as spiky structures on their leaves. These spikes put rabbits off their feed, abrading their teeth and giving them stomach-ache (Pest Management Science DOI:10.1002/ps.1302).
Humans only eat the grain, so the repellent would only affect the vermin. But when the slag-treated plants were compared to normal plants, grazing damage fell by more than half.
Slag -- or calcium silicate -- a plentiful byproduct of blast furnaces, is dirt-cheap and environmentally friendly. What's more, it's already known to act as an effective fertilizer in rice paddies and sugar cane fields. And as it's not an active chemical, it could circumvent the convoluted pesticide regulatory approval pathway and be used straight away.
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