Central regions | Farming, agriculture | Technology & innovation

New weapon to fight locusts developed in Russia

15 Mar '16
Fungipak, a Russian biotech developer and resident of the Skolkovo innovation hub just outside Moscow, is working on a brand new form of bioactive agents to protect crops against pests, especially locusts, the Skolkovo Foundation announced.

Traditionally, two different approaches are used to address the problem, chemical and microbiological; and both are known for their serious flaws.

“Many years of experience fighting locusts prove that using insecticides results in little more than a temporary reduction of locust populations and of harm the insects bring. But there’s a downside: massive application of chemicals destabilizes the environmental situation through destroying the natural enemies of locusts, thus removing any barrier to the pests’ exponential multiplication for several years in a row,” said Andrei Fokin, the co-founder of Fungipak.

The alternative microbiological method the Russian company is offering calls for the use of new bioactive agents that are specifically aggressive towards locusts. According to the developer, the agents do not do any harm to natural ecosystems and are not so vulnerable to solar radiation, temperature and other external factors as the current competition.

“We’re offering the market an effective and safe technique to protect plants against pests. It’s a combination of a bioactive agent killing the insects and a new method of storing the agent. The latter is a microcontainer that does not only make it possible to place an active substance, such as entomopathogenic microorganisms, inside a special membrane guarding it against UV radiation or high temperature, but also provides enough nutrient medium reserves to keep the agent alive and active longer than the current competition,” Mr. Fokin claims.

Locusts invade agricultural fields in many countries each year. Swarms of those keep looking for food and can cover as many as 30km daily in their migration. In the 20th century, the most devastating locust invasion was registered in 1954, when 40 billion insects weighing a total of 80,000 tons ravaged crops in Kenya. One ton of locusts can devour as much food a day as is required to feed 2,500 people. Last year, Russian territories invaded by locusts were almost as large as the entire territory of Romania.
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