Locust invasion - The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is working in partnership with the Egyptian and Sudanese governments to control the latest threat from desert locusts. Sudanese official Radio Omdurman has been reporting over the weekend that swarms of desert locusts, coming from Egypt, Sudan's northern neighbours, have attacked northern Sudan, eating up wheat, the stable food for central and northern Sudan, with officials saying at least five insecticide spraying planes have been engaged in combating the advance of the green-cover avid insects.
The radio also said dozens of trucks mounted with pesticide spraying equipment have been sent to the region.
In a press release received Friday by PANA, the FAO described the current invasion of the desert locusts as that of a 'threat', a degree short of the catastrophic stage.
'The FAO Emergency Centre for Locust Operations, based at the FAO Headquarters in Rome, has defined the current situation as ‘threat’ level. There are four levels in total: calm, caution, threat and danger,' the press release stated.
It said the Cairo-based FAO Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in the Central Region (known as the CRC) is in close and constant contact with the General Department for Locust Affairs and Agro-aviation within the Ministry of Agriculture in Egypt, and the Plant Protection Directorate in the Sudanese Ministry of Agriculture.
It said that since 2006, the Commission had worked constantly to strengthen surveillance, information sharing and responses to outbreaks in order to reduce the risks on agricultural production and livelihoods across the countries of the region -- Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti, Bahrain, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
The release said desert locust groups were detected in Egypt in November 2012 and initial control operations were performed. In small pockets of a large, remote area of land covering south-eastern Egypt and north-eastern Sudan egg-laying occurred in December and January 2013.
It pointed out that in both countries, survey and control teams have been regularly working in the field, undertaking the necessary operations.
This is part of the preventive control strategy that the CRC is implementing in the frontline member countries of the Central Region -- Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen.
As the current situation is creating concerns about the possibilities that these swarms can ravage agricultural lands in Egypt and Sudan, Mr. Mamoon Al-Alawi, FAO Secretary of the Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in the Central Region, has pointed out that 'as of now, the primary method to control desert locust infestations are insecticides applied in small concentrated doses either by vehicle-mounted or aerial sprayers at ultra-low volume (ULV).'
He was quoted as stressing that bio-pesticides (Green Muscle fungus) are also in use and applied in the same way as chemical insecticides, though they do not kill as quickly.
'At recommended doses, the fungus can take 5-7 days to kill the locusts. For that reason, they are recommended mainly against hoppers, the wingless early stages of locusts.
'Hoppers are mostly found in the desert, far from cropping areas, where the delay in death does not result in damage. The advantage of bio-pesticides is that they affect only locusts and are much safer than chemical insecticides.'
The FAO official stressed that as winter breeding period is about to end, the current number of swarms is relatively limited, adding 'if no more rains fall then additional breeding will not occur and locust numbers will gradually decline due to control operations.
'If rains do fall, then government efforts are required to control the infestations and protect winter crops. FAO is continuing to closely monitor the situation,' the FAO release quoted Al-Alawi as saying.