High Protein grasses as cheaper replacement for conventional feeds in cricket farming

Species of grasses exist that at various stages of development (ususally early on) have crude protein contents high enough to sustain cricket growth (16-21% at various stages of life cycle). These grasses have potential for prolific growth, depending on the climate in which they are planted. Does anybody know whether crickets will eat these grasses, or whether they need to be chopped or milled after being harvested to be utilized for food? Many species of grass may be planted on the American plains as perrenials, and harvested multiple times per year, and potentially could be used as a high protein bulking agent in traditional animal feeds or as an outright replacement for such feeds. Due to the perrenial growth patterns and relatively high yields with small inputs of time and resources (fertilizer, irrigation), these grasses could bring down the cost of feeding farmed insects significantly. Any thoughts, questions or comments are welcome :)

Comments

  • Hi achamb, - I think you might be interested in field food for the "Mormon" cricket. These are going to feed on field fobs (herbs, ex. milkweed & other herbaceous plants).

    I mention this because am not sure if you are going to find collecting pure wild grain seed embryos as convenient as "weeds". A good orientation to Mormon cricket food proclivities is the following free full text: https://adacounty.id.gov/Portals/Accem/Doc/PDF/mormoncrickets.pdf

    Entomology icon DeFoliart in 1982 says they can live in densities of 10-20/sq. meter. He calculated that at 20 per sq.mt. an area of 1 sq. kilometer would produce ~22 metric tons of Mormon cricket dry weight.

    Here's free full link to the above study by DeFoliart. There is lots of other data on Mormon crickets on the web if interested & if not angling exclusively for the human market for "House" crickets they may suit your environment, http://labs.russell.wisc.edu/insectsasfood/files/2012/09/3_PotentialMormonCricketPoultry.pdf

  • Gringo, I think you may have misunderstood my question. I was talking about feeding the grass itself to the crickets, and not the seeds. Essentially, all I need to know is if the crickets will eat the grass if it is supplied to them, and if they posses the ability to utilize the proteins in the grasses themselves.

  • Hi achamb, - If the plant does not have protein enzyme inhibitors the crickets protein digesting enzymes (proteinase) will work. A higher ratio of protein in their diet will lead them to produce a bit more protein digesting enzymes.

    Within reasonable amounts plant proteinase enzyme inhibitors usually do not mean the cricket can't digest any protein at all. They are capable of ramping up the amount of protein digesting enzymes to compensate for the reduced effectiveness of their usual level of proteinase.

    Some plant parts are so strong in proteinase inhibitors it can impact a stage in the life cycle - these are what are considered an "anti-feedant". If you are providing a mix of "grasses" & see they avoid consuming any kinds then assume those are the ones that are too high in protein enzyme inhibitors to bother using.

    Cricket diet is meant to be about 40% carbohydrate; plants with carbohydrates maltose & glucose will lead them to produce more amylase enzyme to digest the plant carbohydrates. Starch (in plant leaf granules) is partly made into the carbohydrate maltose & this maltose then stimulates them to make more amylase. Bear in mind if their diet is too low in starch their amylase enzymatic output drops; young leaves don't have a lot of starch granules so you may find age (blade length) of the wild grasses you use for feed also relevant.

    If you give them high "fat" (lipid) content food they don't automatically make more fat (lipid) digesting lipase enzyme. The excess lipids will be excreted & thus in a sense be wasted. By altering the ratio of carbohydrate:protein:lipid in the cricket diet their respective digestive enzymes will also alter.

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