Report reveals large-scale Abu Dhabi operation to quell locust threat

Swarms tracked across more than 800 square kilometres to protect crops and farmland

Experts in 2020 tracked swarms of locusts across more than 800 square kilometres in the region to monitor infestations and crop damage.

Desert regions were surveyed by the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority over 10 weeks after sightings of locusts at Dalma Island's farms.

In a situation report, about 430 square kilometres were checked in Al Ain, with control operations on locust populations executed across almost 300 sq km.

"Desert locusts pose a threat to crops and farm production, because their swarms can devour large amounts of vegetation," said Mubarak Al Mansouri, executive director of agricultural affairs at the authority.

“Controlling locusts is a shared responsibility between relevant government entities and farm owners.”

Each insect can eat its bodyweight in food every day, to devastating effect.

The agricultural authority was placed on high alert to combat any swarms coming from locust breeding areas in the Arabian Peninsula and the Red Sea coasts.

Control measures were put in place on farms in Al Dhafra and Abu Dhabi to protect crops and agricultural land from the insects.

The operation involved 125 engineers and 144 workers, while 72 vehicles were used to spray locusts across the vast area.

Climatic conditions helped the recent outbreak of locusts seen in the region as swarms advanced across East Africa, south-west Asia, and the Red Sea coastal areas.

It posed the greatest threat to food poverty in those regions with the potential to devastate huge areas of crops.

In 2020, the environment ministry developed an online early biosecurity notification system to report sightings, while monitoring the movement of locust numbers elsewhere in the region.

Swarms of up to 80 million locusts have steadily increased since 2019 owing to a series of unusual weather patterns. They are able to cover up to 130km a day devouring huge areas of vegetation in their path.

East Africa was one of the regions worst hit, with farms devastated in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.