How Aspirin reduces pest attacks in crops

Spraying or watering crops with the painkiller Aspirin increases their immune system while triggering their natural defense systems that fight bacteria, fungi, and viruses according to researchers. A 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.

The study offers helpful insights to 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.

Aspirin could be the solution, at least for now. 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.

The active ingredient in it is called the salicylic acid which is both useful to humans and now also to plants. 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.

Salicylic acid is a naturally occurring compound in plants. 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.

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.

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.