Aloe vera, known for its medicinal properties, reveals a new secret. Researchers have discovered that the discarded rind of the aloe plant, often considered agricultural waste, may hold the key to natural pest control. This groundbreaking finding will be presented at the upcoming fall meeting of the American Chemical Society.
Dr. Debasish Bandyopadhyay, leader of the study, said there is a need to find a way to dispose of the millions of tons of aloe peels that are discarded worldwide each year. During a visit to an aloe vera production facility, Dr. Bandyopadhyay noticed that while insects preyed on other plants, aloe leaves were avoided by them. This observation piqued his curiosity and he asked for samples of the discarded peel for further study.
While aloe gel is used by gardeners as a natural pesticide, the peel remains neglected. On an industrial scale, peels are commonly used as biomass to improve soil quality on aloe farms. However, this practice has environmental implications as the decomposition of agricultural waste releases methane and other greenhouse gases.
Dr. Bandyopadhyay saw an opportunity to address both the demand for insecticides and waste management. By harnessing the potential of aloe vera peel as an insect repellent, he aims to make aloe production more sustainable. His team at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley began by drying the peel naturally to preserve its bioactivity.
The researchers found that the hexane extract contains octacosane, a compound known for its mosquito-killing properties. However, the dichloromethane (DCM) extract proved to be an even more potent insecticide. Using modern techniques such as high-performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, more than 20 compounds were identified, six of which stood out for their insecticidal properties: octacosanol, subenniatin B, dinoterb, arjungenin, nonadecanone and quillic acid.
With this groundbreaking research, aloe vera peel could become a valuable natural alternative to synthetic pesticides. This will not only help control insect infestations, but will also promote a more environmentally friendly and sustainable approach to aloe production.