10 Things to Know About… Insects

As the global population rises, questions are being asked as to how we can continue to feed the planet with more sustainable food products and behaviours. Could the answer be the humble insect?

10 Things to Know About… Insects
Insects – BYDV : Researcher Louise McNamara (right) with 10 Things to Know About… presenter Kathriona Devereaux.

Meet the Teagasc researchers Carlos Álvarez García and Eduarda Cabral Neves on the new series of TV programme ‘10 Things to Know About … Insects’ tonight, Monday, 14 November on RTÉ One at 8.30PM.

10 Things to Know About… Insects
Insects – Valusect: Researcher Carlos Álvarez García (left) with 10 Things to Know About… presenter Jonathan McCrea

Researcher Carlos Álvarez García, Teagasc Ashtown Food Research Centre, explains: “Insects are a novel food for western countries; however, they are recognised as an excellent source of high value proteins and to be less demanding in terms of energy, water, space and environmental impact than traditional animal-sourced proteins. The scientific community is dedicating big efforts to understand how these small bio-factories can convert food loss and unused biomass into nutritious human food, while being safe, sustainable and accepted by consumers”.

Insects have a high protein content and carbon-friendly breeding methods, and with three types of insects already in use in the European Union, this episode explores the latest Irish research into edible insects and try out some taste testing at the National Ploughing Championships to see if members of the public might be open to adding crickets to their cornflakes!

Unfortunately, not all insects are helpful to the food chain. Grain aphids carrying Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV) can devastate cereal crops, reduce the yield by on average 30%, but can be as high as 80% in optimal conditions. With EU regulations limiting the amount of insecticide that farmers can use and aphids evolving to become resistant to it, we meet the Irish researchers looking to further understand these creatures and help farmers to combat BYDV. Teagasc Researcher Louise McNamara and Walsh Scholar Maximilian Schughart, from the Teagasc Crops Science Department, Oak Park explain their work on BYDV in this episode.

Louise McNamara says: “Aphids are major global pests and are the most serious pests of cereal crops in Ireland. They spread BYDV, which can cause significant yield loss. Milder weather can provide conditions that are more favourable for pests, such as aphids, to reproduce and spread disease. At Teagasc we are continuously monitoring cereal aphids to develop more robust and sustainable approaches that enable farmers to protect their crops into the future”.

In his returning segment in the programme called “Curious Chronicles”, science communicator Fergus Mc Auliffe champions the wartime medical marvel: the humble maggot.

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