The locust swarms that started to invade Kenya in December 2019 have spread to ten African countries, putting millions at risk of hunger, according to the United Nations (UN). SERVIR, a joint program between NASA and the US Agency for International Development, is teaming up with the UN’s Desert Locust Information System and its Food and Agriculture Organization to learn more about the locusts’ behavior using satellite data and imagery.
Fully developed desert locusts can travel up to 90 miles (145 kilometers) in a single day, making it very difficult to control their spread. SERVIR’s line of attack is to target locust eggs and young locusts, whose wings haven’t developed yet, making them less mobile. Locusts prefer to lay their eggs in moist, warm soil, close to vegetation for the young locusts to feed on once they’ve hatched. By using satellite technology, it’s possible to monitor soil moisture and vegetative growth from space, allowing researchers to better pinpoint locust breeding grounds and spraying them with pesticides.
Why It Matters
Development of monitoring tools like those of SERVIR will give researchers greater predictive power for the next locust outbreak. Satellite data can also be used to assist farmers in better managing crop planting and to inform government policy on where to invest in new arable land.