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Greater awareness of biopesticides could fight locust outbreaks

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A new study led by scientists from the Chinese MARA-CABI Joint Laboratory for Biosafety suggests greater awareness of biopesticide market availability, efficacy and field application processes could help tackle locust outbreaks in China.

The researchers, who outline their findings in the journal Sustainability, argue that future studies should also focus on modelling the expected impact and cost effectiveness of chemicals verses biopesticides – therefore increasing the evidence base for promoting more environmentally friendly biopesticide use.

The scientists say successes have been achieved by using emerging technologies – including spraying of the locusts using drones, GPS tracking, GIS mapping and satellite data imagery – but chemical pesticides in China and other countries remains the primary method of control for the pests. Though China has made great strides with the use of biopesticides, the researchers stress and further highlight that a reason why chemical pesticides are chosen is due to their fast action despite more negative impacts on the environment.

The scientists say the uptake of biopesticides remains low due to various factors including inconsistent field results, shorter product life, high costs and effectiveness on a smaller range of pests as compared to other products. Despite this, there is increasing evidence of the benefits of biopesticides in general, including for locusts.

Co-author Dr. Mariam Kadzamira, senior researcher, agribusiness, based at CABI’s head office in Wallingford, UK, said, the research shows that despite the availability of biopesticides in local markets, their use is dampened by inadequate information about market availability, negative perceptions by decision-makers about their efficacy, and concerns about their costs as well as limited knowledge of their application techniques.

“Actions are, therefore, needed by relevant authorities to enhance stakeholder awareness of biopesticide market availability, efficacy and field application processes,” noted Kadzamira.

The researchers stress that to increase the use of biopesticides for locust control there should be evidence-based local exemplars and case studies, and where possible, this should include comparisons with the long-term outcomes of using biopesticides verses chemical pesticides on locust populations. They further add that since pest outbreaks necessitate quick and decisive actions for success, information packages should be made available to decision-makers on an on-going basis – not just when there is an outbreak.

Read about CABI collaboration into mobile phone app that could help in the fight against marauding swarms of locust, view here.

Read the MARCH/APRIL 2023 issue of New AG International, free to view here.

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