FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Biopesticides are a safe and effective tool against locusts in Central Asia


8 May 2023, Tashkent, Uzbekistan – Every year, several locust infestations threaten the crops and rangelands of Central Asian countries. The invasions jeopardize food security of thousands of people, reliant upon agriculture for their income. For more than half a century, local farmers have used chemical pesticides to control locusts but this practice has had a toll on the environment and on people.

By definition, pesticides are a poison. These chemicals denigrate and pollute the soil, water, air, plants, and other insects and organisms essential to biodiversity of ecosystems; leave residues in foods; and can be harmful to human health.

Biopesticides offer a better, more sustainable solution for Central Asian farmers.

For over twenty years, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has advocated for the use of less hazardous control methods, and particularly biopesticides. Biopesticides are nature-based biological pesticides such as microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The advantage of biopesticides is that they target only locusts and grasshoppers with no negative impact on human health or the other plants, animals, and components of the ecosystem. They can even be used in nature reserves.

To promote their further use, FAO, together with the Agency for Quarantine and Plant Protection under the Ministry of Agriculture of Uzbekistan, organized a demonstration and trial of biopesticides on 25-29 April in Jizzakh, East Uzbekistan to introduce biopesticides to Central Asian countries with the long-term goal of reducing chemical pesticide use. Currently, the region treats an average of 4.2 million hectares of land with pesticides each year. The event was part of the FAO programme to improve national and regional locust management in Caucasus and Central Asia and funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The five-day demonstration consisted of treatments against the Moroccan Locust, applying two biopesticides, based on fungi Metarhizium acridum and Beauveria bassiana. The demonstration included a presentation on the use of biopesticides in locust control, a field application of these two biopesticides, a mortality assessment, and an assessment of the impact on non-target organisms.

Since biopesticides are relatively slow-acting products, the treatments were conducted both eight to ten days before and during the demonstration to show the efficiency and efficacy to participants. The demonstration trial was completed by post-application environmental monitoring to illustrate the safety of the biopesticides to non-target organisms, in particular arthropods.

The activities in Jizzakh concluded with a round table presenting lessons learnt and recommendations. A similar demonstration trial is planned to be held in Caucasus in June 2023. Results of the two demonstrations and trials will then be reviewed together with all Caucasus and Central Asian countries, during the annual technical workshop scheduled during the autumn under the FAO Locust Programme.

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