Bloomberg News

Locusts in Sudan Seen by FAO as a Threat to Nile Valley Crops

March 26, 2013

Desert locusts hatching in northern Sudan may pose a threat to Nile River valley crops in May, according to Keith Cressman, senior locust forecasting officer at the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization.

Cressman, who was in northern Sudan from March 15 to 17, saw immature locusts known as hoppers hatching and forming bands along a 1,000-kilometer (621-mile) stretch of the Nile between Dongola and Atbara, he said in e-mailed comments today.

Spraying as many hopper groups in Sudan as possible next month will be “critical” to reduce the likelihood of swarms forming, the FAO officer said. Swarms would be a threat to Nile valley crops in the country and in neighboring Egypt, Africa’s biggest grower of wheat and rice.

“There is a potential for a substantial problem to develop in north Sudan in the coming months,” Cressman said. “There is also sufficient time for another generation of breeding to follow with swarms from that generation forming in about mid- July along the Nile.”

Locusts swarming in July would probably move south to “vast and partially insecure” summer breeding areas in central Sudan, according to the FAO officer.

Desert locust infestations were reported this month in Egypt, Israel, Lebanon and Jordan after “good breeding” this winter along the Sudan-Egypt border on the Red Sea coast, Cressman said.

Small adult groups and swarms formed after vegetation dried out in February, and some reached southern Israel and Jordan, while individuals were spread around the coastal plains of Israel and Lebanon, he said.

Plague Years

Desert-locust distribution can extend over 60 countries during plague years, covering about 29 million square kilometers, or about a fifth of the world’s land, according to the FAO.

“We’re not in a resurgence or plague situation but it is indeed unusual to see infestations in the eastern Mediterranean,” with 2004 being the last time, Cressman said. “The winter-breeding populations actually originated from an outbreak at the end of last summer in the interior of Sudan.”

Adult desert locusts can eat their own weight in food daily, according to the FAO. Egypt is Africa’s biggest wheat grower, with expected output of 8.5 million metric tons in the 2012-13 season, according to the International Grains Council.

Swarms containing tens of millions of the insects can fly as much as 150 kilometers a day, and a female locust can lay 300 eggs in her lifetime, according to the UN agency.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at rruitenberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter2@bloomberg.net


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