Scientists are now saying that spraying or watering crops with the painkiller Aspirin can increase the crops immune system and help fight bacteria, fungi, and viruses that have for ages troubled farmers.
That would be sweet news for Kenyan farmers always eager to find a solution to these problems. A new study by the US Department of Agriculture, found that the use of an aspirin spray, which can be made at home, resulted in a 47 per cent reduction in blight in tomatoes.
If confirmed, the study will aid Kenyan farmers who have been grappling with overuse of pesticides which have seen the target pests develop resistance. And with the cost of conventional pesticides being prohibitively high, majority of the farmers have spent a fortune but with little or no results.
It has long been known that plants often develop a state of heightened resistance, called systemic acquired resistance, following pathogen infection; this phenomenon requires the movement of a signal from the infected leaf to uninfected parts of the plant. Until now, however, no one knew what that signal was.
But scientists now know that the active ingredient is salicylic acid which is both useful to humans and now also to plants. What happens is that plants increase their own production of salicylic acid to heal themselves when threatened by disease, even emitting a salicylic gas to warn other plants that dangerous insects are around.
When a plant is stressed or attacked by a pathogen, this compound stimulates the plant’s internal defence pathways. Treating a plant with additional salicylic acid appears to trigger the plant’s defence pathways in the same way.
According to a study published in the Annals of Applied Biology, the substance is effective in fighting disease in the nightshade family, which includes potatoes and tomatoes.
The drug is particularly effective at warding off blight, a devastating fungal disease that can wipe out an entire crop in days.
The drug is particularly effective at warding off blight, a devastating fungal disease that can wipe out an entire crop in days
Another study, by scientists at the Gorgan University of Agricultural Sciences in Iran, found salicylic acid to be a ‘potent plant hormone’ which substantially boosted yield.
Simply spraying the foliage or soaking the seeds in an aspirin solution led to greater growth, and higher vitamin C content, according to a paper published in the International Journal of Agriculture and Crop Sciences.
James Wong, gardening presenting for the BBC, told The Independent on Sunday that plants should be dosed with a water-based aspirin solution when heavy rain is forecast.
Rebecca Brown, professor of plant sciences at the University of Rhode Island, recommends adding 250 to 500mg of aspirin to around 4.5 litres of water and spraying plants two or three times a month.
She warns that the solution is only effective before the first signs of blight.
In order to reap maximum benefits from Aspirin, scientists recommend farmers to use 250 to 500 miligrams, which is about one or two regular aspirin tablets in 4.5 litres of water. Farmers are advised to spray the plants two to three times per month.
Alternatively farmers can also soak seeds in an aspirin solution before sowing to boost immunity from get go. According to scientists the Aspirin spray does not only stimulate internal defence mechanisms to protect itself, but also increases yields especially in tomatoes. However spraying should be done before farmers spot the disease, since Aspirin is not a pesticide that cures diseases, it gives the plants the internal ability to fight diseases
The drug is particularly effective at warding off blight, a devastating fungal disease that can wipe out an entire crop in days. Any brand of aspirin will work, but plain, uncoated tablets dissolve best.
Once the plant is infected there is only one solution, according to the British Royal Horticultural Society.
Pull them up and dispose of them. Do not compost, because infected spores can survive and pass the disease on to next year’s crop.
Instead, burn them.