3. Tanzania: Biological pesticide halts locust invasion (SciDev.Net, FAO)

| August 3, 2009

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Swarms of locusts darkened the skies of western and central Tanzania earlier this year. Descending locusts can spell doom for crops and other vegetation. A large locust swarm can eat as much as hundreds of thousands of people each day. But these swarms were met with something different. They were sprayed with a biological pesticide that killed them without damaging the environment.

The usual response to locusts is targeted application of chemical pesticides. But Green Muscle is a new type of pesticide. It contains a fungus suspended in mineral oil. The fungus grows on locusts, producing a toxin that weakens them. This makes them easy prey for birds and lizards.

Unlike chemical pesticides, Green Muscle is not harmful to humans. It is even safe for the birds and lizards which eat locusts. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) organized the spraying of Green Muscle in Tanzania, in collaboration with the Locust Control Organization for Central and Southern Africa.

Christian Pantenius is a locust expert with the FAO. He explains that Green Muscle is more appropriate for preventing outbreaks than controlling them. The biological pesticide takes between one and three weeks to kill locusts. However, once applied to land, it remains effective for weeks.

More than 10,000 hectares of land were sprayed with Green Muscle. This was the first large-scale application of the biological pesticide. The FAO plans to deploy it in Malawi, Mozambique, and other parts of Tanzania in the months ahead.

You can stay informed about locust activity by visiting the FAO’s Locust watch site: http://www.fao.org/ag/locusts/en/info/info/index.html.