CABI and Swiss biological control producers Éléphant Vert are stepping up the fight against crop-destroying locusts and grasshoppers with a safe and environment friendly product called Green Muscle™ which is now being used in Africa.
Around 20 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania are facing acute food insecurity, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), due to a second desert locust outbreak and the COVID-19 crisis.
Locusts and grasshoppers regularly decimate crops in many parts of Africa and Asia with locusts, in particular, responsible for invading in swarms of millions - leaving behind ravaged fields and putting livelihoods and food security at severe risk.
The FAO says widespread rains that fell in East Africa in March and April could now lead to an explosion in desert locust numbers with new hopper bands and swarms possibly forming in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia during May and June.
This follows a first outbreak in May 2018 in the Arabian Peninsula, exacerbated by Cyclone Mekunu, which then spread to the Horn of Africa in December 2019 fuelled by the winds of Cyclone Pawan. It is also feared that changing winds have also blown locusts to Pakistan and India.
Green Muscle™ is based on a specific isolate of a fungus called Metarhizium acridum which only attacks locusts and grasshoppers, effectively stopping them in their tracks. In the first few months of this year, the FAO released tenders for the supply of a Metharizium acridum-based product for Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia. Éléphant Vert subsequently delivered Green Muscle™ to the authorities and spray teams are currently applying it under the supervision of the FAO. Samples of the product have also been sent to Uganda, Pakistan and India where the locust situation is getting worse.
Green Muscle, the biological solution with proven results
Green Muscle™ 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. The resulting product has been proven to work better than chemicals - provided it is applied on time to hopper bands before swarming starts.
Dr Dick Shaw, CABI's Country Director UK, said, "CABI worked on the product that was to become Green Muscle™ back in the 1990s when searching for fungi to kill a range of insects. As long ago as 2009, the FAO reported that the product, which was to become Green Muscle™, had effectively treated 10,000 hectares of Red Locust-infested land in Tanzania where otherwise a full-blown invasion would have been caused - threatening the food crops of 15 million people. It was also used again to great effect in Madagascar.
"The partnership with Éléphant Vert saw CABI licensing the product and providing the starter cultures from its liquid nitrogen stores. Éléphant Vert is using its extensive workforce and facilities to mass produce and market the product across Africa and parts of Asia where it is urgently needed to help in the fight against devastating locust swarms."
Sebastien Couasnet, Éléphant Vert's CEO, said: "We are delighted to be working alongside CABI, who share our passion to promote environment friendly biological solutions, to manage pests such as locusts and grasshoppers which threaten economic stability and global food security. In partnership, we are sharing our technical and production capabilities to bring this effective product to market in areas where it is really needed as part of an integrated pest management approach to fight these and other invasive pests."
As well as working with Éléphant Vert on the supply of Green Muscle™, CABI has also been part of multi-agency responses to the locust problem in countries including Kenya which suffered the worst infestation in 70 years.
CABI's research has confirmed that Green Muscle™ is effective against various species including Desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria), Red locust (Nomadacris septemfasciata), Brown locusts (Locustana pardalina), Sahelian tree locusts (Anacridium melanorhodon), Variegated grasshopper (Zonocerus variegatus), Senegalese grasshopper (Oedaleus senegalensis), African rice grasshoppers (Hieroglyphus daganensis) and Sahelian grasshoppers.
CABI is an international not-for-profit organization that improves people's lives by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment. Through knowledge sharing and science, CABI helps address issues of global concern such as improving global food security and safeguarding the environment. We do this by helping farmers grow more and lose less of what they produce, combating threats to agriculture and the environment from pests and diseases, protecting biodiversity from invasive species, and improving access to agricultural and environmental scientific knowledge. Our 49 member countries guide and influence our core areas of work, which include development and research projects, scientific publishing and microbial services.
We gratefully acknowledge the core financial support from our member countries (and lead agencies) including the United Kingdom (Department for International Development), China (Chinese Ministry of Agriculture), Australia (Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research), Canada (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), Netherlands (Directorate-General for International Cooperation, and Switzerland (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation). Other sources of funding include the fees paid by our member countries and profits from our publishing activities which enable CABI to support rural development and scientific research around the world. We also acknowledge the partners Iinvolved Iin the original LUBILOSA project: the UK (Ascot) laboratory of the International Institute of Biological Control (CAB International), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture from its Benin station (Cotonou), INSAH (part of CILSS) in Bamako, Mali, AGRHYMET/DFPV (part of CILSS) in Niamey, Niger and GTZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit, Eschborn, Gemany).
About Éléphant Vert
As an expert in micro-organisms, in the formulation of bio-inputs and in innovative approaches, Éléphant Vert is committed to creating, promoting and distributing innovative, efficient and accessible biosolutions to farmers, with a tangible impact on agricultural profitability and sustainability. Established in Morocco, Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Tanzania, Switzerland, Belgium and France, Éléphant Vert has more than 850 employees, is developing an offer in Africa (North, East and West), as well as in Europe, and participates in the conversion of agriculture towards sustainable models. Éléphant Vert was created by Antenna, a Swiss foundation, committed to the diffusion of scientific, technologic, economic, and medical solutions to address the essential needs of the most vulnerable communities.