23 February 2007Locust numbers have continued to increase along the northern coast of Eritrea and adjacent coastal areas of Sudan and other Red Sea and Gulf of Aden countries could face important infestations of the crop-devouring insects this winter due to unusually good rains and favourable ecological conditions, the United Nations warned today. “Vigilance is critical, particularly on the Red Sea coastal plains where a Desert Locust outbreak developed in Eritrea in December,” the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said, raising the alert level in the Red Sea area to “caution.” “When vegetation begins to dry out, these locusts may form hopper bands and swarms that could move to neighbouring countries,” FAO expert Keith Cressman added. Small-scale breeding is in progress in coastal areas of Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and FAO has received reports of locust concentrations on the northwest coast of Somalia. In Eritrea and Sudan a second generation of breeding is underway that could cause locusts to rapidly increase in number. The agency is closely monitoring the situation as continuing rains could lead to further deterioration and greater threat to the countries around the Red Sea in April/May. Control operations against locusts are continuing on the Eritrean coast where Eritrean ground teams have treated more than 15,000 hectares of hoppers and adults that were forming small groups. Most of the control has been carried out in millet crops on the coast near Shelshela and Sheib. The governments of Sudan and Yemen have mobilized additional locust teams to monitor their coastal plains and control any infestations that may endanger crops. A spray aircraft has been deployed on standby on the Sudanese coast. The FAO recommends the use of bio-pesticides derived from natural materials such as animals, plants, bacteria, and certain minerals. They help to fight pests while minimizing risks to human health and the environment. The potential of the biopesticide Green Muscle® as a method to combat Desert Locust has been demonstrated in several field trials in Africa and the FAO will conduct field trials on the Red Sea coastal plains in Sudan in collaboration with the national Locust Control Centre and the international research institution, ICIPE, in the next month.