How to Prevent Desert Locust
One method for controlling this pest is using biopesticides. This environmentally friendly and effective method was developed as part of the LUBILOSA project, which uses an insecticide that is biodegradable. Reactive spraying and conventional insecticides are also used. But how to prevent desert locust? The following article will explain the process. In the meantime, the LUBILOSA project is encouraging other countries to adopt biopesticides.
LUBILOSA project uses biopesticide
To combat desert locusts, LUBILOSA researchers are using a biopesticide that kills them using a fungal pathogen. While the chemical pesticide dieldrin is banned due to environmental concerns, alternative chemicals are now being used in huge quantities and are causing greater environmental damage. After receiving criticism from the environmental lobby, donors wanted to find a better alternative. They found an entomopathogenic fungus that they could put through existing spraying equipment and kill the locusts.
A Dutch locust expert, based at the AGRHYMET Regional Center in Niamey, Niger, helped the LUBILOSA project develops a biopesticide to control the pest. The project gave the Dutch agency a dedicated budget in the LUBILOSA project and it has partnered with the GTZ’s locust program for years.
Agrochemicals used for desert locust control usually contain organophosphate insecticides. The insecticides are applied in small, concentrated doses using aerial sprayers or vehicle-mounted sprayers. The insecticide must be applied directly to the locust. Government agencies in the locust-affected countries and specialized organizations like the Desert Locust Control Organization for East Africa use this method.
Researchers also discovered that a GM formulation of Metarhizium acridum (GM) could prevent desert locusts in a variety of southwestern crops. The fungus also attracts predators including kestrels and birds. Birds and kestrels eat the locust’s droppings, which are toxic and spoil stored food.
LUBILOSA received funding to develop a biopesticide. The first phase of the project involved contacting internationally renowned producers of biopesticide. Unfortunately, none of them were willing to commit to providing spores during the third phase. Therefore, the IITA’s Cotonou station was converted into a spore production unit. This proved a useful research facility and helped with testing.
Despite these limitations, LUBILOSA is now being used in the broader context of integrated pest management. Its success in preventing desert locust is based on a number of factors, including strong awareness campaigns and capacity building by ICIPE. It’s worth noting, however, that this project will continue to evolve, and a more detailed and complete study is needed to assess the long-term benefits of biopesticide in the desert.
The government of the countries affected by the desert locust has a number of options for controlling the pest. While conventionally formulated pesticides are still used in many developing countries, new approaches that are less harmful to the environment are increasingly becoming the norm. In 2003-2005, the desert locust devastated Mauritania and Mali, destroying nearly 90 percent of the cereal production there. The latest huge locust attack was recorded in Ethiopia in 2020.
In eastern Africa, the desert locust is destroying newly planted crops. National governments and the FAO are working together to control the locust swarm and prevent it from spreading further. The Desert Locust Control Organization for Eastern Africa is using aircraft to spray an insecticide over the affected regions. The organization is spraying the insecticide from an airborne aircraft at Lodwar, Kenya, and over-South Sudan and Uganda. Unfortunately, the global coronavirus pandemic has slowed the importation of pesticides and ground control personnel.
Prevention strategies for desert locust are highly effective and may be necessary if farmers do not have the ability to control the insect. Several types of biocontrol agents can be used in the breeding area. Chemical-based control measures should be a last resort. Using remote sensed images, satellite data, or FAO bulletins, the population movement path of the locust should be predicted and a ULV-formulated insecticide should be used in the area.
Biopesticides have been proven to be effective and safe for humans and the environment. Biopesticides such as Green Muscle have been used in Tanzania and Yemen, with some success. These methods are not a complete solution, but they are a good start. If you’d like to learn more about the new technology available to prevent the desert locust, please visit the Ecopesticides International website.
Observation and management of breeding areas are key to control. Managing the hopper bands and patches before they reach the population peak is an ideal way to protect crops. However, these methods require a significant amount of money and are only effective if rainfall is poor. Swarm treatment costs almost twice as much as treating a band-infestedinfested block. And, this method is also strenuous.
Although conventional pesticides may be effective in reducing infestations, biopesticides are an eco-friendly alternative. These pesticides kill the crop-devouring insects naturally, without harming other insects that support the local ecosystem. Additionally, biopesticides are safe to use in natural areas, such as wetlands or bodies of water. In addition, they do not harm other wildlife.
Initially, the initial response to the outbreak was based on the belief that the insects would spread through war-torn areas. Yet early intervention was thwarted by armed conflict in the primary breeding areas of Sudan and Eritrea. The former was fighting an independence war with Ethiopia for nearly 30 years. Moreover, a parallel independence struggle took place in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. In addition, the Sudan was experiencing a violent civil war.
In the meantime, botanical pesticides have been tested. These have been shown to be effective against both migratory and desert locust populations. But their use should be done with caution, to avoid unintended side effects on the ecosystem. The use of botanical insecticides may be the answer to the future problems of chemical pesticides. However, more research is needed to determine their effectiveness in controlling locust populations and their impact on the local ecosystem.
The international community has funded an emergency campaign to protect crops in the region. The campaign cost $310 million. Early experts estimated that the locust plague would last seven years. But the use of conventional insecticides was not enough to halt the breeding cycle. Four conditions occurred that broke the locust breeding cycle. In the first place, a storm front from West Africa carried the swarms across the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean.
The use of conventional insecticides has been a common method to control the species. The use of rice husk mixed with molasses and 20% chlorpyrifos is one way to eliminate the swarms. Insecticides also pose a risk to native predatory species, so it is important to have trained personnel apply the chemical. Chemical pesticides are not the only solution to desert locust infestation, though, as they are largely toxic and can adversely impact the native ecosystem.
Experts say that reactive spraying of desert locust will help to control a population of flies in a certain area. Locusts are generally solitary insects, but can become gregarious in outbreaks and form swarms. They spread across vast distances following the winds and can cause destruction in one area but not in another. Aerial spraying has not been successful in controlling desert locust populations and experts say that a second outbreak is likely.
Reactive spraying is a permanent mandate of national teams of locust specialists who are permanently mandated to eradicate important populations or local outbreaks. In contrast to upsurges, desert locust swarms are smaller and less concentrated than they are during the summer months. A significant number of locust swarms form in the winter and spring months, but disperse quickly as soon as the temperatures rise.
While many advocates of early control argue that early control is necessary to prevent upsurges, they often neglect to mention that the upsurge occurs between 1962 and 1985 and that a major aerial campaign may be necessary to stop the plague and protect crops during this time. Moreover, there have been studies suggesting that spraying early in the upsurge period does not prevent upsurges from developing, because early spraying leaves non-target scattered locusts alive.
One of the most effective biological control methods is metarhizium, a fungus from the skin of locusts. Many chemicals are toxic to people and the environment, and some cause more harm than good. Aerial spraying can cause skin rashes and neurological and eye problems. Some chemicals are even harmful to aquatic species. So, it is imperative to monitor the efficacy of any chemical used in desert locust control.
There are three main stages of desert locust infestations: upsurges and plagues. An upsurge occurs when a population of locusts increases significantly. An outbreak can be localized or cross-regional. Plagues are marked by a high number of reports in a single year, and an outbreak can last for years. Ultimately, the upsurge will be more difficult to control unless all the factors are considered in the outbreak.