Study reveals that cannabinoids derived from hemp could serve as a foundation for organic pesticides

The Potential of Hemp-Derived Cannabinoids as Natural Pesticides

Recent research conducted at Cornell University suggests that cannabinoids derived from hemp could prove to be highly effective natural pesticides. These findings come from experiments conducted under the supervision of Larry Smart, a plant breeder and professor at Cornell AgriTech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).

‘Defensive Compounds’

In a study published in the journal Horticulture Research, Smart and his team found that higher levels of cannabinoids in hemp leaves correlated with reduced damage from pests. This discovery opens the door to the potential development of pesticides for non-edible plants only, due to the pharmacological properties of the compounds.

The compounds in question, including CBDA, THCA, and CBGA, are naturally produced by hemp plants and convert to better-known compounds like CBD, THC, and CBG when heated. They are believed to serve as “defensive compounds” that protect plants from environmental stressors.

According to Smart, “no one has put together a comprehensive set of experimental results to show a direct relationship between the accumulation of these cannabinoids and their harmful effects on insects.”

Fighting Insects

The research at Cornell further revealed that hemp varieties lacking in cannabinoids were significantly more susceptible to pests, particularly Japanese beetles. In contrast, those with higher cannabinoid levels experienced much less damage from insect attacks.

Controlled feeding studies in the lab demonstrated the inhibitory effects of cannabinoids, with larvae showing decreased growth and lower rates of survival as cannabinoid concentration increased. This suggests that cannabinoids could serve as effective natural defense mechanisms against herbivores.

‘Exciting’ Research Field

George Stack, a postdoctoral researcher in Smart’s lab, referred to the potential use of cannabinoids as a pesticide as “an exciting area for future research.” However, he also pointed out potential regulatory barriers due to the pharmacological activity of the compounds, emphasizing the need for further studies to understand what pests cannabinoids will be effective against.

The research team is also looking into the potential effects of cannabinoids on sap-sucking insects like aphids, as well as exploring whether other plant species that produce cannabinoids could also benefit from their insecticidal properties.

Research Team

A number of experts and researchers from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University contributed to this groundbreaking study, highlighting the wide-ranging impact of the findings on the potential use of hemp-derived cannabinoids as natural pesticides.

With ongoing research in this field, the future may see the development of a new and sustainable approach to pest control, harnessing the power of cannabinoids from hemp to protect plants from harmful insects.



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