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Monday, 23 October, 2000, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK
Locust liquidator boost
A locust swarm
A locust swarm brings economic hardship in its wake
A new insecticide which targets locusts and grasshoppers is proving safe and effective in field tests, according to The World Bank in Washington.

The Green Muscle spray has just completed its first major spraying programme after many years in development.

Scientists have long known that a fungus called Metarhizium kills locusts and grasshoppers, without harming other creatures.

The challenge has been to reproduce the fungus on an industrial scale, and to find a means of applying it as a practical insecticide.

Locusts on bush
Green Muscle is being hailed as a safer alternative to current locust insecticides
An oil-based solution proved to be the answer because it can be sprayed on a small scale from hand pumps, or used to cover large areas by aerial spraying.

The first large-scale spraying programme has just finished in Nigeria, and the World Bank's agricultural research wing has declared it a success.

Green Muscle proved itself more effective than other insecticides after only one spraying, while chemical pesticides need to be sprayed three times a season, according to The World Bank report.

Health hazard

Locust control in recent years has been hampered by the worldwide ban on the chemical DDT.

While DDT is very good at killing locusts, it was found to be damaging to health.

Replacement chemicals were less effective, and still toxic unless used with strict precautions.

Scientists from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria, which conducted much of the research into Green Muscle, said farmers reported that they and their families were much healthier since using the new pesticide.

Their only complaint was that the viscous fluid was harder to pump than the chemicals.

However, these farmers said the extra effort was a price worth paying for a better and safer way to save their crops.

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See also:

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