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UN monitors Australian plague locust control.



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UN monitors Australian plague locust control

AFFA00/18D 6 November 2000

A United Nations observer is visiting Australia (28 October-10 November) to monitor the world's first large-scale operational trial of an environmentally-benign biopesticide to help combat a locust plague threatening many rural areas.

Rome-based Dr Clive Elliott, from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), is examining the effects of Metarhizium, (pronounced Meta-rizz-ee-um) a non-chemical spray, to see whether it can be used effectively on plague hit areas in other countries.

Dr Elliott is Senior Officer, Locust and other Migratory Pests Group, FAO. He is visiting Australian Plague Locust Commission (APLC) control bases in the NSW Riverina and the Broken Hill districts.

Desert locust plagues have threatened crops and caused famine since ancient times, especially in north and central Africa, the Near East and south west Asia.

In recent years, FAO projects have been helping control upsurges in places such as Sudan, Eritrea, Egypt and along Red Sea coastal plains.

FAO was founded in 1945 to raise levels of nutrition, standards of living, agricultural productivity and the condition of rural populations. With 180 member nations, plus the EC, it is the UN’s largest autonomous agency.

Metarhizium has attracted FAO attention because it contains a naturally occurring fungus that avoids residue problems and reduces hazards to users and the environment. It can be used in areas where conventional pesticides are not appropriate.

Currently, there are only limited quantities of Metarhizium available. Work on developing the biological control agent began in Britain, west Africa and the USA about 10 years ago as a method to treat African locusts. The promising initial results led to an intense research and development effort by CSIRO and APLC to rapidly move to operational use.

Metarhizium, known commercially as Green Guard, is produced for APLC by Seed, Grain and Biotechnology (SGB) of Wodonga, under licence from CSIRO.

Dr Clive Elliot will be available for live or telephone interviews on Thursday 9 November at the APLC, 12 Mildura Street Fyshwick ACT — 02 6272-5076.

Further inquiries:

APLC Dr Graeme Hamilton (02) 6272 5727 or 0428 264 083

 

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