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The History of Biological Control with Nosema locustae: Lessons for Locust Management

  • Jeffrey A. Lockwood (a1), Charles R. Bomar (a2) and Al B. Ewen (a3)

Abstract

The historical account of the rise and fall of Nosema locustae as a biological control agent of grasshoppers has substantial implications for the successful development and implementation of biological control of migratory locusts in Africa. The potential of N. locustae was ultimately not sufficient to overcome a set of impediments, including: efficacy (the rate and extent of mortality were relatively low), target specificity (not all pest species were susceptible), formulation (wheat bran bait excluded feeding by some pests), cost (the price of the formulated product was excessive), storage (the organism lacked long-term stability), complex application (the pathogen and its carrier had to be applied during a narrow set of environmental and logistical parameters) and production (the use of an in vivo production system made high-volume production difficult). Some of the most significant limitations that led to the failure of N. locustae have been overcome by work on other pathogens, including the problems of formulation, storage, efficacy and production. However, at least four relevant lessons can be derived from the N. locustae story and applied to ongoing work with biological control of migratory locusts. First, the erratic population dynamics of acridids necessitates that the production, storage and distribution of an augmentative biological control agent will be driven by a boom-and-bust cycle. Second, the immense spatial scale and low unit value of the resources (rangelands) being protected create a unique set of logistical challenges. Third, the control of acridids involves the management of a native insect pest embedded within complex, native ecosystems, which suggests that our interventions should be undertaken with a great deal of caution, monitoring and, ultimately, humility. Fourth, although pathogens can be used as ‘bio-insecticides’, biological control requires education of end-users regarding a more sophisticated approach to pest management.

Le bilan des forces et faiblesses des formulations à base de Nosema locustae comme agent biologique de lutte contre les criquets migratoires comporte des implications substantielles pour le développement efficace et la mise sur pied des méthodes de lutte contre les criquets migratoires en Afrique. En fin de compte, les potentialités de N. locustae n'ont pas été suffisantes pour parier une série d'obstacles dont: l'efficacité (la proportion et le spectre de mortalité sont restés relativement bas), la spécificité pour l'agent cible (toutes les espèces ne sont pas sensibles), la formulation (certaines espèces refusent de se nourrir sur les appâts à base de son de blé), le coût (coût très élevé pour la formulation), le stockage (instabilité à long terme du pouvoir pathogène de l'agent), la complication lors des traitements (l'agent biologique et les adjuvants doivent être appliqués dans des conditions rigoureuses incluant une série de paramètres environnementaux et logistiques), et enfin la production (la formulation du produit, in vitro, enfreint sa production à grande échelle). Certaines des contraintes les plus importantes conduisant aux échecs d'utilisation de N. locustae ont étaient surmontées grâce aux travaux menés chez d'autres pathogènes sur les problèmes de formulation, de stockage, d'efficacité et de production. Quatre leçons importantes peuvent cependant être dégagées de l'historique d'utilisation de N. locustae et appliquées aux travaux en cours sur les criquets migratoires. Primo, la dynamique de populations erratiques d'acridiens exige que la production, le stockage et la distribution d'un agent biologique supplémentaire soient orientés par le principe de cyclicité d'explosion et expension des fléaux. Secundo, les immenses étendues d'espace à traiter et la valeur unitaire insignifiante des ressources à protéger (pâturages) créent une série de défis logistiques à lever. Tertio, la lutte anti-acridienne visant une gestion d'un insecte autochtone faisant partie d'un complexe d'une faune endémique devrait s'effectuer avec une grande précaution et un suivi extrêmement minutieux. Quarto, quand bien même les agents biologiques peuvent être utilisés comme des bio-insecticides, la lutte biologique implique une formation des utilisateurs finaux compte tenu de son approche plus sophistiquée pour le contrôle du ravageur.

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The History of Biological Control with Nosema locustae: Lessons for Locust Management

  • Jeffrey A. Lockwood (a1), Charles R. Bomar (a2) and Al B. Ewen (a3)

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