16/06/2009 - Press release
The 10th International Congress of Orthopterology is due to be held in Antalya (Turkey) from 21 to 25 June. The congress is sponsored by the University of Akdeniz (Turkey) and CIRAD, and organized by the Orthopterists' Society, of which Michel Lecoq, a CIRAD researcher, has been President since 2005.
Locusts, crickets and grasshoppers, and also stick insects, mantises and cockroaches are all orthopteran insects, some of which are found on several continents, that will be discussed at this international congress, at which more than two hundred participants are expected. "But it is locusts that the scientists present will be looking at most closely, given the importance of the stakes in terms of controlling these tropical crop pests
", Michel Lecoq* points out.
These insects are a major concern in many countries worldwide, where swarms are common. Over the past ten years now, migratory, desert and red locusts, etc, have regularly infested Madagascar, Australia, China, Peru, Kazakhstan and several countries in Africa. The last major locust invasion was that of desert locusts in West Africa in 2004-2005. It is therefore important to continue studying the behaviour of these species so as to be able to offer effective, environmentally friendly control strategies.
Five topics are due to be covered in symposia during the congress:
- the impact of global change on orthopteran populations
- communication (visual, chemical, etc) between orthopterans
- the molecular biology and genetics of populations
- pest management (of particular interest to CIRAD researchers).
The day of 25 June will be given over to locust management, in a symposium entitled "Integrated pest management for locusts and grasshoppers: are alternatives to chemical pesticides credible?", which CIRAD will be organizing. The question of biopesticides (entomopathogenic fungi) and pheromones (chemical signals by which insects communicate) as control methods is to be addressed. "Several biopesticides have been developed, one of which is now available in African countries, but is little used, if at all. These products are more difficult to use than chemical insecticides, act much more slowly and are sensitive to temperature ", Michel Lecoq explains. However, after an
initial congress in Senegal in 2007, a recent international meeting on the future of biopesticides in the fight against desert locusts, organized by the FAO in Rome in February 2009 concluded that they were effective and recommended their use.
In Brazil, EMBRAPA (Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária) has developed a mycopesticide that has been tested by CIRAD in Mato Grosso. The results were promising and led to a proposed preventive control strategy. A book was published on the topic in 2008. It was written jointly by Michel Lecoq and Bonifacio Magalhes (EMBRAPA).
The Antalya congress will provide an update on biopesticides. Papers are to be presented on their use in Australia, on the progress made regarding their use against desert locusts, on the synergy between such products and birds (avian predation of locusts), and the possible use of pheromones to control locusts in Africa.
As Michel Lecoq concludes: "CIRAD is now launching research on desert locusts, particularly in Mauritania, to pinpoint the zones where swarms are likely to occur as early as possible, using remote sensing. Molecular biology should help us understand the dynamics of low-density populations, before invasions begin. An interactive database is being set up in the Internet, and should enable us to manage an operational control strategy covering more than ten countries in Africa both more efficiently and in real time ."
* Head of the CIRAD Locust Ecology and Control Internal Research Unit