The processing of shrimp and other arthropod seafood produces a lot of waste from the shells. The structural polysaccharide chitin, a component of all arthropod cuticle, is the second most abundant natural polymer on the planet (after cellulose). The cuticle can be processed to remove the proteins, then deacetylated (a chemical modification) to produce chitosan. Chitosan is relatively inexpensive and is being investigated for a number of uses.
Chitosan has a number of uses in agriculture including protective coatings for vegetables and seeds, as a fertilizer, a protectant for plants against microorganisms and a stimulant of plant growth. Chitosan has found its way into the orchid production industry. Chitosan sprays will increase the growth of orchids and improve production. The mechanism behind the stimulation of growth by chitosan is not yet understood.
Many arthropods are pests of plants that stunt plant growth. Chitosan is a new “arthropod-plant interaction” that improves plant growth.
A pitcher orchid. The pitcher contains water that traps small insects. The insects will be digested and the nutrients absorbed by the plant.