Controlling Locusts with Technology

By George Grow

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

Desert locusts are a threat to agriculture in many developing countries. Large numbers of locusts can destroy crops in a few hours. Locusts can eat as much food in one day as two-thousand-five-hundred people. The insects also move quickly. They can travel more than one-hundred kilometers in a day.

The U-N Food and Agriculture Organization says desert locusts are found in twenty-five countries. The countries cover an area of sixteen-million square kilometers, from west Africa to India.

The local Ministry of Agriculture generally is responsible for locust control. In some areas, international organizations offer assistance. Chemicals to control locusts can reduce the number of insects. However, some locusts have developed a resistance to the chemicals. Also, chemicals can be costly and harm the environment.

Desert locusts caused major crop damage between Nineteen-Eighty-Seven and Nineteen-Eighty-Nine. Locust experts are preparing for the next major attack.

Presently, teams investigate and collect information about the location of locusts. They send their reports to a national office. From there, the reports are sent to F-A-O headquarters.

Recently, United Nations officials described a method to ease the work of people studying the insects. The method involves satellites in earth orbit and computers. F-A-O officials say teams now can use satellites in a global positioning system, or G-P-S. It provides position information to both military and civilian users all over the world. Researchers studying locusts can identify their position to within ten meters. The team connects the G-P-S to a small hand-held computer. The computer has a program for collecting information about locusts. At the end of the day, the team connects the computer to a special radio in a vehicle. The radio sends the information to the national office through a special device.

F-A-O locust expert Keith Cressman says desert locust attacks can begin suddenly. So it is important to be able to act quickly. He says this technology will help send information quickly and correctly. The new system should help experts warn countries threatened by desert locusts. It also should reduce the amount of chemicals needed to kill the insects.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.

Voice of America Special English