In the greenhouses at BYU-Idaho, students and faculty have more problems with infestation compared to when working outside. "We have close confinement, loss of plants, and we have problems transmitting bad bugs from one plant to another," said Ross Spackman, an Applied Plant Science professor at BYU-Idaho. "If we are using conventional insecticides, there is restriction time when the workers can be in there."
He said there may be some residual from the insecticides that could be harmful to his students who work inside. "So we were thinking about the possibility of using something that the plant needs and requires for it's existence already but is not toxic to humans at the levels we are envisioning," he said. "That's carbon dioxide. Plants need CO2 as part of the photosynthesis and respiration cycle. However, insects don't need carbon dioxide as part of their respiration. What would happen then if we introduced them into an enclosed environment, with excessively high levels of carbon dioxide, and no oxygen?"
Inside the greenhouse jungle room, I stood with two BYU-Idaho students. This room is full of lush green plants, moss covered rocks and from our surroundings it seemed as if we were far, far away from Idaho. "We are going to harvest some aphids from some plants that are growing here in the greenhouse," said Florence Smith, a student majoring in horticulture. "Then we are going to put them in a CO2 chamber and we are going to see how long it takes for them to be fully killed off. This is because some of them can actually regenerate and comeback to life."
Chloe Baka, a student who is also majoring in horticulture, told me what she thinks the process will be like. "I think that we are going to get some results but I don't know if it's going to be easy."
This project Spackman and the students are working on will take all semester long. If the results are good, then they can take their work to the national agronomy meetings and compete with other students. They could also kill off some bugs in the greenhouse.