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Ants, termites can boost wheat yields

Last Updated: Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 10:49

Sydney: Allowing ants and termites to flourish on farmlands can boost wheat yields by more than a third, a finding that has a direct bearing on food output under changing climate.

The study, carried out on a farm in an arid zone in Western Australia, shows these insects play an eco-friendly role in dry climates similar to earthworms in wet climates.

"The areas of the farm where we didn`t apply pesticides produced a 36 percent higher yield of wheat than the control area," study co-author Nathan Lo from the University of Sydney`s School of Biological Sciences was quoted as saying by the journal Nature Communications.

Lo said the results were exciting as they promised to reduce the need for increasingly expensive and harmful petroleum-based products such as herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers, according to a Sydney statement.

"There are two main reasons we think this has happened. Firstly, the termites and ants create a lot of tunnels under the soil when they forage away from their nests, and this helps water absorption. This is particularly important in dry areas," he said.

"Secondly, bacteria in termite guts are able to fix significant amounts of nitrogen from the air. Some of this nitrogen is transferred to termite tunnels, helping to improve plant growth," he added.


First Published: Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 10:49

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