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A comparison of natural and chemical pesticidesFeatured science projectScience project video

Abstract

Pesticides are necessary to keep our agricultural plants safe from insect infestation. Natural pesticides are increasingly preferred, as they reduce the number of chemicals that are released into the environment. In this experiment, you will examine whether biopesticides are as effective as their chemical counterparts.

Hypothesis

Biopesticides will not protect plants as well as chemical pesticides.

Objective

You will be able to describe the performance of biopesticides as compared to chemical pesticides.

Scientific Terms

Control, Pesticide, Biopesticide

Background

Have you ever seen your parents spray a chemical on your summer tomato plants? If so, you have probably seen someone apply a pesticide, a chemical designed to keep pests - primarily insects - away from agricultural plants. Pests can cause serious problems for farmers by destroying their valuable crops, which can make our food more expensive because it becomes scarcer.

In recent years, a move toward biopesticides has been observed due to concerns over health problems caused by the use of chemicals. You can buy a traditional chemical pesticide at your local hardware store, but biopesticides are probably closer than you think, often found in your kitchen!

To determine the effectiveness of pesticides, experts look at plants to see if holes have been bored in their leaves or bite-marks are found on the flowers. Some insects will leave a sticky residue on the leaves, as well, or the bugs might actually be seen on the plant!

In this experiment, we will compare the effectiveness of three biopesticides - neem, onion and chili peppers - to a more traditional chemical pesticide. Remember that we will be using a control during this experiment to eliminate error from our experimental procedure.

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    Complexity level:
    4
    Project cost ($):
    Time required:
    Half hour to set up on two subsequent days. 10 - 15 minutes checking the plants every 3 days for 2 weeks. This experiment is best performed during spring or summer, when bugs and other pests are more likely to be found.
    Material availability:
    Everything you need for this science fair project will be available at a big-box retailer or large hardware store, as well as a grocery store.
    Safety concerns:

    General safety rules apply. You should take care with the hot water and chili peppers; protective gloves are recommended. An adult should be enlisted to assist you.