Lucknow, Nov 30 (IANS) Onions, garlic and chillies don't just spice up your favourite dish, they can also keep pests at bay. And now five school students in Uttar Pradesh have used them to prepare an eco-friendly pesticide.
The biopesticide has been prepared by students of GRM Senior Secondary School in Bareilly. It is one of the few projects from the state to be selected for the National Children's Science Congress (NCSC) to be held at Dimapur, Nagaland, from Dec 27 to 31.
'Just by analysing some of the basic biology principles under the guidance of our biotech teacher, we managed to develop the pesticide,' group leader Saheli Gupta, a Class 11 student, told IANS on telephone.
Gupta and four of her schoolmates have come up with the innovative pesticide that unlike chemical pesticides does not degrade soil fertility.
Studies have shown that chemical pesticides linger in the atmosphere, in the ground and in waterways long after they ceased to be used in a given area. Pesticides have also been linked to various diseases.
According to members of the group, the World Health Organisation and the UN Environment Programme estimate that each year, three million agricultural workers in the developing world experience severe poisoning from pesticide.
In June 2005, according to a study conducted by the NGO Centre for Science and Environment, residues of about 13 chemical pesticides were found in blood samples collected from rural people in Punjab.
'As our pest control formulation is totally free of chemicals, there is no question of ill-effects on the soil or an adverse impact on health while using it on crops,' reasoned Reena Varshney, the biotechnology teacher who helped the students.
The group members said their pesticide derives its potency to counter pests from different compounds present in onion, garlic and chillies.
'Organic compounds like allicin found in garlic, capsaicinoids derived from green chillies and sulphur compounds extracted from onion give the pesticide the strength to fight pests,' said Varshney.
Besides being eco-friendly, its low manufacturing cost also gives the biopesticide an edge over its chemical counterparts.
'For a hectare of crops, farmers require nearly one kilogram of chemical pesticides costing around Rs.350 in the market. However, for the same area, the pesticide developed by us will cost just Rs.20,' said Varshney.
The simple procedural technique involved in making the biopesticide makes it special.
'Around 100 grams of onion mixed with an equal quantity of garlic with a handful of green chillies in a definite quantity of water and then a simple filtration process - it is that simple,' said Imran Hashmi, another member in the group.
Considering the low cost, utility and eco-friendliness of the product, the group members feel it may also be selected for the annual National Science Congress, which is inaugurated by the prime minister.
The group members believe the effectiveness of their pesticide can be increased with the help of agricultural scientists.