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Frithjof VossHalting the locust plague

Published in 1996Time to read: 0min 47s

Locust swarms are capable of devouring vast fields of crops within hours. Geographer Frithjof Voss used satellite image mapping to detect locusts before they could wreak their havoc.


One way to halt locust plagues is to attack breeding populations before they reach a critical mass. This way, rather than spray or otherwise fight swarms over millions of hectares, they can be relatively easily and economically destroyed at source.

The system as it stands now has proven workable and easily applicable anywhere in the world. Locusts do not recognize national borders and neither does my system.

Until the work of Frithjof Voss, the science of predicting swarms had advanced little since the time of Hittite soothsayers centuries ago.

Voss, who died in 2004, created a system to detect locust swarms before they start to devour crops and vegetation. He demonstrated the viability and effectiveness of this remote-sensing system in field experiments in Africa and Asia.

Follow-up studies on the ground showed Voss’s biotope maps to be highly accurate. Satellite imagery is still used to detect likely locust swarms, and is now combined with UAVs (drones), which offer the potential to effectively survey wide areas.

Besides eliminating locust plagues and alleviating the threat of famine, Voss’s work showed potential to protect ecosystems, promote scientific agriculture and encourage cooperation between countries.

  • 100,000

    People who could be fed for a year on food that disappears within hours of a locust swarm


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