Black Soldier Flies Make Lush Meadows

It is not just about Brussels sprouts. Black soldier fly frass also helps other plants to grow.

Rodgers, E., Nicolson, E., Lauder, S. and Hodge, S., 2024. Response of Pasture Grasses to Organic Fertilizer Produced from Black Soldier Fly Frass. Plants, 13(7), 943.

Livestock and dairy farmers are increasingly required to maintain productivity and profitability while mitigating the environmental harm associated with high-input agriculture. Accordingly, to reduce reliance on synthetic fertilizers, a wide range of organically derived products are being evaluated for their effects on sward growth and forage quality. This study used glasshouse experiments to investigate the responses of four grass species to a novel organic fertilizer derived from the mass production of black soldier fly larvae [Hermetia illucens, HexaFrass™, Meath, Ireland]. Although there was some variability among trials, overall our results indicate that application of HexaFrass produced increased shoot growth of Perennial Ryegrass (PRG; Lolium perenne L.), Timothy (Phleum pratense L.), and Cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata L.) compared with growth achieved in no-fertilizer control plants. In addition to increases in shoot fresh and dry weight, shoot chlorophyll content was also positively related to the HexaFrass application rate. At nitrogen-equivalent application rates, HexaFrass resulted in lower shoot growth compared with the application of urea, suggesting that the nitrogen contained in HexaFrass may not be immediately plant-available. Of relevance to grazing or silage systems, the addition of HexaFrass resulted in increased shoot regrowth of PRG and Timothy after shoots had been cut. Based on our results, insect-frass-based fertilizers may have a role in low input, organic, and/or regenerative pasture-based livestock systems, although issues may occur due to the relatively high costs and low availability compared with other organic soil amendments such as farmyard manure and slurry.