an Effective Environmentally Friendly Weapon Against Locusts!
(Beyond Pesticides July 6, 2005) Recently the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported success in finding an environmental friendly weapon to fight against desert locusts. For the first time, tests conducted under large-scale field conditions on desert locusts proved successful using an alternative to toxic pesticides.
During a field trial, organized jointly by the plant protection authorities of Algeria and FAO near El Oued in eastern Algeria, the biopesticide, called Green Muscle®, was sprayed on more than 1,400 hectares of land infested by desert locust larvae. According to FAO, the locusts were clearly weakened and started moving slowly after four days and were then eaten by birds, lizards and ants.
The new control method uses a natural fungus, called Metarhizium anisopliae, which infects locust hoppers in such a way that they stop feeding and die in one to three weeks.
FAO’s, Chief of Plant Protection Service, Niek van der Graff, said, "This successful large-scale test is a major breakthrough in the battle against locusts.”
"For the first time, the biopesticide Green Muscle® was shown to be effective against desert locust under realistic field conditions over a substantial area. While previous tests on the efficacy of Green Muscle® for desert locust control were only conducted in laboratories and on small plots of land, this trial now proves that the fungus can be successfully applied by professional plant protection teams over a large area. This shows that Green Muscle® is a realistic alternative to conventional pesticides", van der Graaff said.
The trial was conducted under optimal temperatures that favored the development of the fungus. More field-testing under less favorable conditions, is required to explore the potential and limitations of the product.
The alternative product, Green Muscle® is a substance composed of the spores of the fungus Metarhizium anisopliae and a mixture of mineral and vegetable oils. The biopesticide is not toxic to humans and kills only locusts and grasshoppers and a very limited number of other insects and it has no other environmental side effects.
Although most conventional pesticides kill locusts immediately, the fungus in Green Muscle® may need up to three weeks to grow within the body of the insect and finally kill it.
Tests show the length of the incubation period depends on the environmental temperature; the fungus grows well between 15 and 35º C. In regions such as the northern African and Sahelian countries that are most affected by desert locust infestations, studies show that this temperature range prevails during parts of the winter and the rainy season when locusts breed.
A number of challenges to widespread use of Green Muscle® remain. To protect food crops from imminent locust attacks by hoppers and swarms, conventional pesticides are still required because they kill the locusts quickly. Green Muscle® cannot be applied on locust swarms.
Green Muscle® is currently being produced commercially by only one company in South Africa with a limited production capacity. Efforts are being made to develop production in Senegal, West Africa. A biopesticide similar to Green Muscle® is currently being produced and used for the control of the Australia plague locust.
The production of Green Muscle® is still very costly when compared with chemical pesticides. However, an increase in demand into a larger market could lower production costs significantly. Unlike conventional pesticides, the application of Green Muscle® requires minimum safety measures and less personal protection equipment.
In the 2004-2005 locust upsurge, which affected up to 16 countries mainly in North-West Africa and the Sahel, about 12.8 million hectares of infestations were treated with pesticides.
TAKE ACTION: Beyond Pesticides offers a plethora of non-toxic alternatives to pesticides. Learn how you can protect your children and loved ones from the effects of pesticides in your home, on your lawns, in schools, in hospitals and other public places. See Beyond Pesticides Alternative Fact Sheets, How-To Factsheets, information on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in schools, information on organic agriculture, and any of our other available materials and publications.