About this Research Topic
Alternative protein sources are becoming more important for sustainable food production systems, with consumers looking for more environmentally friendly products and lower impacts on animal welfare. Production of insect protein and lipids is seen as one solution, as insects can convert organic residues from food and feed side streams with high efficiency into valuable food and feed products. Furthermore, this allows for the re-use of valuable nutrients and, therefore, the development of a circular economy in agriculture.
In this context, the frass by-product of this conversion, which is a mixture of the original feed source of the insects, their feces, and exoskeletons, needs to be considered and evaluated. As a type of insect manure, frass can function as a plant fertilizer or soil amendment, thereby contributing to closing nutrient cycles and improving soil and plant quality. Due to the presence of potentially plant growth-promoting components, such as chitin, frass may actually be more valuable than “just” a nutrient source for plants and may even act as a plant strengthener.
However, as the organic side streams are used, the digestion tract of the insects and frass itself are hotspots of microbial activity, where potentially harmful organisms for plants or humans can thrive and contribute to the spread or development of antibiotic-resistant genes. Consequently, regulations have been implemented that try to guarantee the safe use of frass as a fertilizer after sterilization of the material.
The goal of this Research Topic is to illustrate and summarize the current stage of scientific knowledge and research on insect frass as a by-product of the fast-growing insect industry. We encourage manuscripts to be submitted that highlight the potential benefits and risks associated with frass use in agriculture and horticulture.
This Research Topic aims at collecting research on insect frass from insect production investigating the following themes:
• Benefits for plant growth and soil health, including evaluation of the risks of frass on plant and human health;
• Frass effects on plant growth, health, and nutrient uptake, on the soil microbiome and microbial processes, as well as on risks for plant and human health through the spread of diseases and antibiotic resistance;
• The role of insect protein for sustainable food systems and the role of frass for the circular economy.
Keywords: Insect frass, fertilizer, soil amendment, microbial community, antibiotic resistance, pathogens, contamination
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.