Winter crops threatened in the Middle East by desert locust outbreak
After a summer season of good rains and recent favorable rainfall, desert locust populations continue to increase and may threaten winter crops in northwest Africa and along the Red Sea, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) warns.
A dangerous situation is reported in Sudan where a mature swarm arrived on the Red Sea coast from nearby outbreak areas near the Atbara River in the interior of northeastern Sudan. More adult groups and a few swarms are expected to appear on the Red Sea coastal plains of Sudan and lay eggs that will hatch in the coming weeks.
Adult groups and swarms may also continue across the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia where locusts were seen laying eggs on the coastal plains between Jeddah and Yenbo. Still in Saudi Arabia, some groups moved towards the hinterland in areas close to the towns of Medina and Taif where they laid eggs. "This is very unusual at this time of the year," said a recent FAO report on the spread of desert locusts. Hatching has already commenced in some areas and hoppers are forming bands.
FAO experts fear an extension of the locust threat in the Middle East if good rains fall along the Red Sea coasts during the winter. Control operations treated some 3,600 hectares during the first week of December in Saudi Arabia and operations continue in Sudan.
A desert locust is a grasshopper that modifies its behavior and appearance in response to environmental conditions. Desert locusts are normally found in the solitary phase at very low densities in the desert in about 20 countries between Mauritania and India.
When rainfall creates favorable breeding conditions, the locusts can multiply rapidly, concentrate and gregarize. This means that they act collectively, forming swarms of adults and marching bands of hoppers. Crop damage by swarms can be devastating. The years between plagues are referred to as a recession period. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)