Stuff You Missed in Botany: Experiment With Organic Pest Control

Stuff You Missed in Botany: Experiment With Organic Pest Control

No, I’m not telling you what an experiment is as such. I’m telling you about a Botany experiment I’m going to be doing with my son, Jonathan.

Last week while searching for various and sundry things, I came across an interesting article about Myrosinase. This has sparked much curiosity, scientific probing,  and even a bit of the entrepreneur spirit around the Gunz household.

Myrosinase is an enzyme that is released when radish leaves are stressed. (It’s not only radish leaves, but most of the brassicas family, the largest quantity comes from rapeseed) The enzyme acts as a repellent to insects, and other foragers.

DNA of Myrosinase~it looks like pretty and paisley!

So, here’s my idea. I’m going to have a test plot of plants (probably tomatoes because they are easy to grow and I have about a zillion already) that I will use as my “study” area. I’m planning on designating one half as a control, using no spray at all, and the other will be sprayed with my test repellents.

"She's mad I tell you, MAD! Mwuhahaha"

I’m thinking I’ll start with five rows of tests.

  1. Row 1: Sprayed with a solution of macerated radish leaves steeped in cool water for three days then strained through a coffee filter into a spray bottle.
  2. Row 2: Sprayed with a solution of macerated radish leaves steeped like tea with boiling water (I’m curious as to if heat will affect efficacy)
  3. Row 3: Daikon solution (instead of French Breakfast) same cold brew as 1.
  4. Row 4: Daikon solution prepared with hot water.
  5. Row 5: Mix of radish solution, cold brewed with the addition of marigold heads and garlic.

What do I expect?

I think I’ll have a really good insect repellent for tomatoes. I know that the spray is completely safe for humans and pets, we feed radish leaves to bunnies and eat the radish sprouts ourselves. Although the spray may prove to be a slight skin irritant to very sensitive skin, I think that only people with extreme skin sensitivity would have any problem with it.

My oldest son, Ryan has agreed to let me spray him to see if he gets a reaction. He is  really sensitive to a wide variety of environmental substances such as carpet vapors and air fresheners. If anyone in my family is going to get a skin allergy it’s him. I realize this is not the broad testing that would be necessary for wide range distribution, but it’s going to do the trick for handing out bottles to friends and family.

I have family members that have asked me if I knew of any insecticides that are safe. I usually just go with the pat answer of there being some that are safer but none are completely “safe”. If a two year old drinks a large dose of any insecticide, there are going to be complications. The difference in ingredients will be the difference in barely any reaction at all, really uncomfortable reactions, or dire, even fatal reactions.

As all of the ingredients are edible, food grade, I’m even using filtered water, I think I’ll be okay.

Now, I need your help. I would really like ideas and input on this experiment. I have found by just talking it through it has developed into a pretty good idea. With more input it could be an extraordinary idea.

A very Paisley bottle for my spray!

For example, my original plan called for only using the radish tops of the French Breakfast radishes I harvested last week.

My science geek son, Jonathan, said I needed to isolate the French Breakfast spray from the Daikon spray because he had noticed that there was actually less insect activity on the Daikon radishes than on the FB’s.

After we studied on that a while, we both came to the conclusion that the Spanish Blacks have the least activity of all of them. This led to more reading and research which led to a study that said that Black Spanish radish has the highest levels of Myrosinase of all the radishes. (Not of all brassicas, just of all radishes. Rapeseed has the highest levels of all the brassicas)

I want to hear from you! What am I forgetting? What else do I need to test? Are tomatoes good “test” specimens you think, or should I try something else? I would love to hear from you! Please comment or email me at with suggestions or questions.

In case you’re keeping score on the “other” experiment…the one the Parsnip flipped his lid over…well, it’s on. After receiving twelve emails and a very helpful comment, saying that I should definitely go for it, even the Snip said it was probably an okay idea in the name of science.

I am going to make a watered down solution of the “special” ingredient so I don’t burn the maters. I have yet to decide which variety to try with it. I’m thinking Brandywine but I’ve also toyed with Purple Calabash. See, you need to weigh in on that too.

Thank you in advance for participating in my experiment with Organic Pest Control.

Have a myosinase paisley weekend!~KeriAnne




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2 Responses »

  1. It will be interesting to see what you find. I read that radishes deter squash vine borers, so I planted some all around my squash plants this year… so far, so good, but it’s still early.

  2. Which kind did you plant? Just curious. I just pickled 1 quart and 4 1/2 quarts of my French Breakfasts last week. This week the Philadelphia White Box (which are scrumptious and extremely mild) and the Spanish Blacks are coming in, yay! Even those in my family that love radishes (which is all save the Parsnip and Jonathan)are encouraging me to pickle them or give them away. = )
    Thanks for the encouragement! You have very lucky little girls!

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