Peter Piper’s Pesticide

If you can’t stand the heat… Stay off of my grass?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

The grasslands in the United States are looking a little THIN these days! Conservationists are sowing new seeds to fatten up our amber waves of grain. Unfortunately, the only things plumping up are the MICE that eat the seeds before they can grow!

Meet Dean Pearson of the U-S-D-A Rocky Mountain Research Station. He and his team are hoping to improve restoration. How? By spicing things up!

Some seeds naturally developed their own defense against predators! Salsa picante, anyone? The seeds in spicy peppers are coated with capsaicin, a chemical that makes your mouth burn.

The team found the perfect pepper to protect the seeds: The Ghost Pepper, one of the world’s hottest! How hot? On the Scoville Heat Unit scale, consider that Habaneros score around a hundred thousand. The Ghost Pepper? Over a million!

The grass seeds were coated with Ghost Pepper powder. Mice skipped the tongue-searing snack. And the team was able to save over eighty percent more seeds!

In short, Peter Piper picked a peck of perfect pepper pesticides! Say THAT three times fast!