The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has sent funds to help the Mauritanian teams involved and has loaned a helicopter to survey larger areas once the locusts begin to hatch. Field trials of a biopesticide are planned, under the aegis of the FAO, to control the very likely larval swarms.
A team from the CIRAD Locust Ecology and Control Internal Research Unit is currently surveying the swarming zones. Trials are planned in conjunction with the CNLA to test new products and control methods. CIRAD researchers are continuing to work in support of the FAO EMPRES programme (Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases). The programme was devised in 1994 to support prevention and control operations in Africa and foster regional collaboration on the issue. Particular attention is being paid to the sustainability of preventive control operations and to introducing risk management plans.
Desert locust infestations have considerable economic, social and environmental repercussions. The last invasion was in 2003-2005, and to control the situation and halt the infestation, the African and Near Eastern countries affected and the international community invested 300 million dollars and treated an area of 13 million hectares. The 1987-1989 invasion cost some 700 million dollars in 23 countries, while 26 million hectares were treated with 32 000 tonnes of insecticide.
Chemical control is still the main control method against desert locusts. However, an alternative method was recently developed, based on an entomopathogenic fungus, Metarhizium anisopliae var. acridum. A formula containing the fungus is sold under the trade name Green Muscle. Current research looks set to confirm the initial promising results. What remains is for biopesticides to find a place in the overall preventive strategy against desert locusts.
Helen Burford | alfa
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