Steps taken to control spread of desert locusts

The current status of desert locusts is being monitored on daily basis by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the wind direction gives them the indication which way they will be heading next.
Nasr bin Saif al Shamsi, Director of Plant Protection at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, explained how teams from the ministry have been coordinated in controlling the locusts.
The swarms of desert locusts have been spotted in many locations especially in northern and southern Al Sharqiyah and Al Wusta governorates. “Measures have been taken since mid November 2019 and are continuing.
“We are using different kinds of pesticides to combat desert locusts. We have been conducting surveillance and controlling them with chemical pesticides sprayed on them. This is the best solution at the current situation and is
approved by FAO.”
Currently the ministry has covered surveillance an area of 600,000 hectares in Al Wusta, and we have controlled and treated an area of 886 hectares with pesticide. In Al Sharqiyah the area under survey is 400,000 hectares and the controlled area is 3,559 hectares.
“On Saturday, Muscat experienced a swarm of locusts, especially Bausher, and before that it
was in Qurayat.
“But these are different swarms. This swarm that arrived in Bausher is from Iran, Pakistan or India as it was expected because of the wind direction.
We have a specialised section for desert locusts and we have been there since yesterday to treat the swarm in coordination with the Muscat Municipality. The swarms are continuously on the move and they go along the sea coast, and that is why we have seen locusts in Salalah last month,” he said. By Sunday the locusts were in Qurum and Wadi Adai.
“As long as they do not find a suitable environment the desert locusts will continue to move. We are monitoring them to find out their next turn, but in the process we are trying to cut down the number,” he said.
The desert locusts can attack any greenery as long as they spot them. What makes this year unique is that the surrounding countries are also facing similar situation, if not worse. On the eastern side Pakistan, Iran and India are battling out the swarms and on the western side Saudi Arabia is facing the challenge and on the south Yemen is also having swarms passing through and is considered threatening because of the inability to control the swarms.
Until now in Oman, the desert locusts have been heading towards the remote and desert areas not harming crops and farms, and in the case of Muscat, there are not too many farms.
The biggest challenge, according to Nasr, is to prevent the locusts from laying eggs.
“The wind usually plays a major role. Last year we had storms considered ideal for the locusts to move from one country to another. According to the direction of the wind the locusts move too. They go along the sea and travel from Somalia as well. So everyday we are monitoring the direction of the wind, so based on that we can forecast the movement of the desert locusts. We are also closely coordinating with CRC of Food and Agriculture Organization,” he noted.
The Commission for Controlling Desert Locust in the central region, CRC, covers Northeast Africa and the Near East and comprises 16 member countries including Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. The CRC concentrates on integrated approach that supports the development, sharing and adaptation of preventive control strategies, explore approaches for assessing impact, vulnerability, adaptation and planning, and focus on economic, institutional and financing issues. It also creates enabling frameworks for economically and environmentally sound control products that embody resource use efficiency, diversification, accessibility and mitigation of the negative impacts of conventional insecticides.
“Information is exchanged and each country knows what is available in the other nation,” he said.
A swarm of desert locust is about one square kilometre in the smallest size (otherwise they are known as groups of locusts) and the best way to handle it is to inform the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries about the location and the team will execute the treatment. The sandy moist soil is ideal for locusts to lay eggs. “This is the crucial point and we are trying to avoid this, which is not an easy task when we are combating a swarm’’.
According to the forecast of the desert locust movement, experts believe the insects could be heading towards the interior and maybe to Al Sharqiyah again, depending on the wind direction. Each governorate has their own surveillance team which coordinates with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. Individually a person cannot do anything against the swarm. “The best thing is to inform the ministry and we will treat the swarm before they can do any damage,” said the director of plant protection.