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Trials on the use of bio-control pesticides in fighting against desert locust has already begun in affected countries, as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warns that bigger swarms could create the worst infestations in the region yet.

The fungi-based bio-control pesticide known as Metharizium acridum, was created by Green Muscle, and is currently being tested in parts of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.

It is  manufactured by Éléphant Vert, stems from a programme called LUBILOSA “LUtte BIologique contre les Locustes et Sauteriaux”, (biological control of locusts and grasshoppers), which was funded by the governments of Canada, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Britain and the USA.

Green Muscle partnered with previous control operations that have included aerial and ground spraying of affected areas with pesticides using ultra Low volume chemical formulations Malathion and Fenitrothion.

The newly introduced bio-pesticide is based on a specific isolate of Metarhizium acridum fungus which only attacks locusts and grasshoppers, effectively stopping them in their tracks.

Kenya Permanent Secretary for Agriculture Prof Hamadi Iddi Boga, told The EastAfrican “the product has proved to work better than chemicals provided it is applied on time to hopper bands before swarming starts.”

“This is a biological product as opposed to a chemical pesticide where you use an organism to kill another,” he said.

According to Boga, Metarhizium acridum has proven to be effective against locusts and has been developed into a biological control pesticide. 

“It infects the hoppers and causes them to die within five days. It has been our wish to move away from chemical insecticides and this presents as an alternative,” he said. It works against the locusts at the hopper stage.

He said unlike the chemical pesticides in use elsewhere, once the fungi infects the locusts it continues to multiply amongst the other locusts, making it more cost-effective as an exterminator.

However samples of the product have also been sent to Pakistan and India where the locust situation is getting worse.

In 2009, the FAO reported that the bio-pesticide had effectively treated 10,000 hectares of Red Locust-infested land in Tanzania and Madagascar, hence proving the effectiveness of the product.

Desert locust is considered to be one of the most dangerous of flying pests by the FAO, as its ability to fly long distances allows it to migrate quickly. 

With the new bio-control pesticide, affected African countries can ensure food security especially as the world is dealing with the impact of the coronavirus(COVID-19) pandemic.

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