Soil Data Aids Prediction of Locust Swarms


Researchers can predict locust breeding locations up to nine weeks in advance.

In 2019-2020, eastern Africa experienced its worst desert locust invasion in more than 40 years. The United Nations and its partners treated more than 17,000 square kilometers (6,600 square miles) of locust infestations across ten countries with various eradication methods. Countless crops were still devoured by the insects, causing serious food insecurity in the region.

As the outbreaks grew and migrated, NASA-funded researchers worked to better forecast when and where the swarms would appear. In a recently published study, the team showed that by examining soil moisture and soil composition, they could predict optimal breeding sites 85 percent of the time.

“We looked at soil moisture and texture because those are critical components to the locust life cycle,” said Lee Ellenburg, the food security and agriculture lead for NASA’s SERVIR program and the study’s lead author. “We are essentially identifying where the locusts are breeding.”

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Image via NASA Earth Observatory