biology

Insect Frass as a Fertiliser and Crop Quality Enhancer

Insect Frass as a Fertiliser and Crop Quality Enhancer

What Exactly is Insect Frass?

Okay, deep breath: insect crap, insect dung, insect excrement, insect exudate, insect faeces, insect guano, insect manure, insect poo, insect poop, insect scat, insect sh!t and—last but not least—insect waste.

This dirty-sounding dozen are all alternative names for insect frass — the ‘stuff’ you will find inside bags of Ecothrive Charge. Given that we’ve recently reformulated our flagship product, it’s probably a good time to dive a little deeper into why insect frass is so beneficial for plants.

First—a quick recap. Ecothrive Charge was our first product, launched over a decade ago in 2013. It’s premium-grade insect frass, ideal for enriching potting soil, coco as well as field or garden soil. As an organic soil conditioner, Ecothrive Charge is derived from the frass (crap, dung, poo, etc., you get the idea) of Tenebrio molitor beetle larvae (commonly known as mealworms) fed on a luxury diet of organic carrots and bran! This premium insect frass is packed full of essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—and it also contains elements that enhance plant immune systems and increase resistance against pests and diseases.

Tenebrio molitor beetles and larvae (commonly known as mealworms)

While we could talk enthusiastically about the benefits of insect frass all day, we know that some of you may be baulking at the mere suggestion of incorporating the ‘excrement of mealworms’ into your finely tuned growing regime—probably because it sounds somewhat unconventional or off-putting. If that’s you, then please—bear with us and give us the chance to shift your perceptions a little. Insect frass is not only helping soil and coco growers unlock improved plant health and overall vigour, it’s also helping to create bigger yields and higher quality produce too.


The Key Advantages of Using Insect Frass

Okay, let’s dive right into the good stuff. Here are the key benefits of adding insect frass to your potting mix:

Incredibly Robust Plant Growth: Insect frass provides a broad spectrum of essential nutrients in a form that plants can readily absorb, promoting stronger, healthier growth.

Boost Seedlings and Cuttings in Coco Coir: The broad spectrum nutrition is particularly useful at transplant time and during the early stages of growth. Insect frass can counteract the natural tendency of new coco coir to draw down nitrogen.

Natural Pest Resistance: The chitin in insect frass naturally triggers plants’ immune responses, potentially reducing the reliance on chemical pesticides.

Eco-Friendly Gardening: Insect frass is a sustainable bio-fertiliser that can help growers to reduce reliance on mineral inputs.

 


Research Highlights

In short-term agricultural experiments, mealworm frass demonstrated a rapid supply of nutrients to plants. Recent scientific studies have indicated significant benefits of using insect frass in gardening. Frass from mealworms has been shown to enhance biomass and nutrient uptake in scientific experiments with barley. The results strongly supported insect frass as an ecologically sound and sustainable alternative to mineral NPK fertilisers. (Houben et al., 2020).

 

How To Use Insect Frass: Some Practical Application Tips

Insect frass can be incorporated into your grow room routine by pre-mixing it into your coco or potting soil mix. You can also use it periodically during the grow or flower phases as a top dressing. Its staggered nutrient release over short, medium and long-term makes it especially beneficial for fast-growing plants.

  1. Pre-Mixing Insect Frass with Your Potting Mix: When preparing your soil or soilless potting mix, incorporate Ecothrive Charge at the rate of 3 to 5 grams per litre of substrate. Thoroughly mix the Charge into the medium to ensure even distribution. This step is ideal when setting up new pots or containers for the planting season.
  2. Top Dressing Insect Frass During Growth Cycles: For established plants, apply Ecothrive Charge as a top dressing to provide a boost of nutrients. Sprinkle 10 grams per 15-20L pot around the base of the plant, gently scratch it into the top layer of the soil, and water it in well. This can be done every two to four weeks, depending on the plant’s response and nutritional needs.
  3. Using Insect Frass with Seedlings and Cuttings: When transplanting seedlings or cuttings, especially in coco coir, apply a lighter rate of 1-2 grams per litre of substrate. This ensures that young plants are not overwhelmed by nutrients and can gradually acclimate to their new environment.

Radish seedlings grown with Charge on the left and without on the right.

Ecothrive’s Updated ‘Charge’

The new Ecothrive Charge comes in a ‘crumb’ form, which are small compressed chunks, reducing dust, easing application, and offering 50% more concentration than before. Don’t worry though—application rates remain the same. The new crumb expands quickly once moist, so the nutrition release rate is very similar to raw mealworm frass. It will also improve soil structure and enhance microbial activity in your potting mix.

Stand by for stronger plant growth, improved plant health, and increased yields when using Ecothrive Charge. It’s particularly effective in promoting vigorous root development and increasing nutrient uptake. This enhanced plant health is the key to unlocking premium quality harvests.

Ecothrive Charge conforms to EU regulations, ensuring it meets the highest standards for organic growers.

Ecothrive Charge stands out as the best insect frass product on the market due to its exceptional quality and proven efficacy. Ecothrive Charge provides a balanced and steady, slow-release delivery of nutrients in a form that plants can readily absorb.

You can purchase Ecothrive Charge from your local indoor gardening retailer or from our online store. We’re confident that, once you start growing with Ecothrive Charge, you’ll never deprive your plants again!

Further Reading

This paper contains a veritable treasure trove of references to studies about the benefits of mealworm frass:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959652624020560#sec6

Mealworm frass when added at 2% to growing medium caused activation of systemic defenses against the necrotrophic pathogen Botrytis cinerea thanks to the presence of chitin.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878818123002633

Mealworm frass application can prime plant defenses against abiotic stress.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0929139319300691

Increase in yield for lettuce observed in test group fed applications of mealworm frass. Mechanism for yield increase was additional nutrient supply.

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