What is Frass?
Frass is actually insect poo! You have probably never spent much time thinking about insect poo and why would you? Well, you might be surprised to find out that you may well be hearing a lot more about it over the coming years.
Just like other animals, insects have to do their business and also like other animals’, it can be put to good use. You are most likely familiar with using manure as a fertiliser, well the same thing can be done with insect poo which we call frass.
Frass often comes hand in hand with the discarded skin (exoskeletons) of the insects which is great because this has its own special way of helping out plants. It contains something called chitin, a naturally occurring molecule that is also found in the shells of crabs and lobsters as well some types of yeast. Chitin acts as a natural biorepellant meaning it causes the plant to repel harmful insects. For this reason, there is really no reason to separate the frass from the exoskeletons before using it on your plants.
So what exactly is it that makes frass such a good choice for healthy happy plants?
Frass as Fertiliser
Frass is a great natural fertiliser that offers an environmentally friendly alternative to chemical fertilisers that cause all types of issues. Chemical fertilisers have been shown to cause soil degredation and water contamination leading to algae blooms and potential risks to our health. On top of this, the effectiveness of chemical fertilisers has been decreasing so I think we can all agree it is time to find something new!
Everything a plant needs to prosper can be found in frass; carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. So that part is covered, but what really makes frass so special is that it is usually made up of around 14% chitin. This chitin breaks down to form chitosan in the soil, binding micronutrients together to make them plant accessible. The nutrients take in by the plant, the more it grows and strengthens.
Another benefit of chitin in frass is that it acts as a kind of ‘immune booster’ to the plant. Lots of pathogens that can be harmful to plants contain chitin, but if this is already recognised by the plant, it can fight it off in much the same way that humans can battle off illnesses they have been vaccinated against them. On top of this, because the frass has been through the insect, you have the added benefits of their internal microbes which further stimulate plant growth!
Frass as a Biorepellent
Not only can frass act as fertiliser, it can also double as a biorepellent. This means it repels unwanted pests from the plants, crops or whatever you are trying to protect. This saves you having to use a pesticide which are harmful to the soil and damaging to water sources. Pesticides also tend to kill all insects and weeds that cross its path, whereas frass just means the insects repelled. This way there is no damage caused to our delicate ecosystem by killing bugs that can do good elsewhere.
Once again it is the chitin mixed in with frass that is doing all the work here. The chitin convinces the plants that live insects are attacking it so it goes on the defence, building it’s cell walls up making it more resistant. The plant will also release its own natural toxins when under threat which deter insects. Essentially, the chitin prepares the plant for insect infestations by mimicking the insects themselves. Clever, right?
The use of frass instead of artificial pesticides has been shown to almost completely deter pest damage of crop plants, whilst supporting essential insects like bees. For these reasons, farmers may want to seriously consider using frass to control their crop growth in the near future.
Why should you make your own frass?
As more awareness is starting to develop around the value of frass, a market for it is starting to develop. People are already paying good money for this s**t, literally. Why pay for it when you can make it yourself!
A by-product of growing mealworms is frass. So even if you don’t have reptiles or chickens, not interested in wild birds or fishing, if your plant mad then a mealworm growing pod may be a very worthwhile investment.
The main benefit of making frass with your own mealworms is having complete control over what goes into them. By feeding your mealworms only organic waste and feed you can ensure the frass is completely sustainable and organic. When buying frass, you cannot be sure that the insects used to make it were not given growth enhancers or hormones.
Growing your own mealworms for frass also means you can control the quality. Feeding them only organic waste and seed can largely improve the quality of the frass which has been shown to significantly impact the effect it has on the plants.
So not only is it cheaper to make your own frass, but it is also more beneficial for your plants!
How to use Frass
Luckily for us, mealworm frass is very dry and small so should be easy enough to collect. If you decide to use our mealworm growing pod, then the frass will be particularly easy to collect as it will be the only thing left in the mealworm growing tray once you have used up all the mealworms. It will be mixed with the remaining feed but that will be organic too and will do no harm to the plants you add your frass to.
It’s most effective to mix the soil you’re going to use with a 2% make up of frass. You can then add this soil to potted plants or flowerbeds. Alternatively, you can make what we call a frass tea and use it to water your plants through a sprinkler system. Just make sure to filter out any solids as it could block your water systems.
Could frass really be the answer to the worlds increasing food demand but desperate need to stop harming our planet in the process? We think so! What do you think?