BMBF Locust-Tec project has developed digital tools and remote sensing-based solutions to faster contain locust outbreaks

Locusts threaten crops worldwide, such as in Sardinia, Ethiopia or Kazakhstan. The chemicals used damage ecosystems and health. Locust-Tec enables effective locust management through remote sensing.

Locust outbreaks and infestations are a serious threat to agriculture, food security and the environment. They cause high economic losses worldwide and threaten the livelihoods of local populations. Increasingly hot and dry droughts due to climate change contribute to outbreaks, as does land-use change in locust habitats.

In 2023, locust outbreaks have also increased worldwide. In Sardinia, for example, there was an outbreak of the Moroccan migratory locust for the fourth year in a row, damaging several thousand hectares of farmland. There are also regular outbreaks of different locust species in Africa, Central Asia and the Caucasus – such as the Italian locust in Kazakhstan.

Current strategies for monitoring and controlling locust outbreaks are often costly, inadequate and have negative impacts on humans and the environment through pesticides. These are harmful to health, lead to poisoning and increase cancer risks in humans and livestock. They also damage entire ecosystems.

To improve existing locust management, the project Locust-tec developed and tested innovative technologies for monitoring and predicting locust outbreaks in Kazakhstan as part of the BMBF funding measure CLIENT II. The project pursued three goals: improving locust outbreak prediction, monitoring and preventive control of locust outbreaks.

Locust outbreak prediction and monitoring with new technologies

Locust-Tec coordinator Igor Klein from the Remote Sensing Data Center of the German Aerospace Center (DLR DFD) reports: "Based on satellite and climate data, we have derived a mapping of the ideal conditions for possible locust outbreaks. This information enables a spatial assessment and shows which areas are most likely to be favored by locusts."
Despite the improvement through remote sensing methods, monitoring on the ground by experts remains the most important component. Here, above all, the exact position, the number of locusts per square metre (population density) and their development stages must be recorded.

To make this task less error-prone, the SUN-mobile app was designed and tested in the Locust-Tec project together with local experts. Thanks to Locust-Tec, the results from satellite data, drone flights and regular monitoring on the ground can now be evaluated immediately and efficiently with the help of web tools (Locust-Tec SuN Web and Locust-Tec GIS). The digitalised data or results can thus be transmitted faster to decision-makers.