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posted by CoolHand on Wednesday June 14, @09:01PM   Printer-friendly
from the its-biblical-man dept.

ESA has an interesting story on how satellite imagery data is used in predicting desert locust plagues.

Satellites are helping to predict favourable conditions for desert locusts to swarm, which poses a threat to agricultural production and, subsequently, livelihoods and food security.

Desert locusts are a type of grasshopper found primarily in the Sahara, across the Arabian Peninsula and into India. The insect is usually harmless, but when they swarm they can migrate across long distances and cause widespread crop damage.

During the 2003–05 plague in West Africa, more than eight million people were affected. Up to 100% losses were reported on cereals, 90% on legumes and 85% on pasture. It took nearly $600 million and 13 million litres of pesticide to bring the plague under control.

[...] "I use the data products to understand the current situation, as well as the evolution of locust outbreaks," said Ahmed Salem Benahi, Chief Information Officer for Mauritania's National Centre for Locust Control.

"We now have the possibility to see the risk of a locust outbreak one to two months in advance, which helps us to better establish preventive control."

The dataset is a combination of measurements from ESA's SMOS and NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites.


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 14, @09:35PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 14, @09:35PM (#525682)

    God will not be tested! This will only end in disaster. If we predict the locusts, He'll only send more floods, earthquakes and volcanoes and maybe invent a nasty new virus to get the moral degenerates. I wouldn't like to be an atheist, Muslim or Catholic these days. It's not looking good.

    • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday June 14, @09:47PM

      by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday June 14, @09:47PM (#525690)

      > maybe invent a nasty new virus to get the moral degenerates

      Twitter, 4chan, or regular [wikipedia.org] ?

      The effects on species survival are pretty poor so far...
      Ironically, Monsanto's locust-harming products are more dangerous than any degenerate-targeting virus.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 14, @10:36PM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 14, @10:36PM (#525700)

    Predict the locust swarm
    Catch the locust swarm
    Sell to China?? Or to a factory egg farm?

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Soylentbob on Thursday June 15, @05:36AM (3 children)

      by Soylentbob (6519) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 15, @05:36AM (#525880)

      Insects as food was my first thought, too. But why only for export? We might change our own eating habits. Locusts (and some other insects) are supposedly quite tasty and have a high nutritional value. The could probably fully replace meat with a much lower CO2 footprint, less water-consumption, easier feeding and breeding. And Economically, ecologically, morally (?[1]) and health-wise this seems like a quite good idea. Although I didn't try myself yet and am not that tempted :-)

      [1] It's not clear, if insects do feel pain, fear [askentomologists.com] or are conscious in a relevant way

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 15, @09:31AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 15, @09:31AM (#525925)

        I was thinking to make fertilizer or animal food out of them if nothing else.

        Who knows, the chemist geniuses may figure out how to make petrol products from them, like they did with corn.

        If nothing else, they appear to have a lot of organic nitrogen in them which makes for good fertilizer.

        With drone technologies developing as they are, I was pondering the use of one-time nets to trap the beasties mid-flight, maybe 50 pounds of 'em at a whack, and drop 'em to the ground, where the net would be folded over them to serve as shipping bag... to be sent to either a fertilizer plant, maybe animal fodder.

        Probably want to transport them in a van-like vehicle so the cargo area can be flooded with exhaust gas to make sure the critters are dead on arrival.

        Judging by the size of the swarms, it looks I could pull ten tons of bugs out and still not make much of a dent.

        As far as I am concerned, these beasties are a major pest known since Biblical times. I am talking bugs that are eating our dinners.

      • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Thursday June 15, @05:15PM (1 child)

        by bob_super (1357) on Thursday June 15, @05:15PM (#526097)

        > It's not clear, if insects do feel pain, fear or are conscious in a relevant way

        I default to assuming that all living being can feel pain in one form or another, and have consciousness.
        Every time we claim that something is only for humans, some animal comes around to prove us wrong, or we actually pay attention and notice their behavior.

        The word "relevant" you use is important. Can you define conscious in a general sense, or are you using "relevant" to no-true-scotsman it to human-like consciousness? Many insects exhibit pretty complex behaviors when put in unusual situations, which don't fit the random/repetitive/dumb patterns you'd expect from being a mindless gene expression.

        • (Score: 2) by Soylentbob on Thursday June 15, @06:36PM

          by Soylentbob (6519) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 15, @06:36PM (#526128)

          Actually consciousness is as far as I know not really scientifically defined. Nor is "suffering". I could possibly implement an avoidance-algorithm for an mbot, to move and avoid bright areas, ane still wouldn't feel guilty to shine a flashlight at it. There is afaik no way to distinguish between a good similation of life and actual life. Evolution is not limited to living beings.

          On the other hand we need to eat. So the best we can do (assuming we want to minimize suffering) is to use common judgement. By saving a cat we kill indirectly birds and mice. But we might save the beatles the mice would have eaten otherwise. There is no actual metric helping us to make the decisions.

          By relevant consciousness I mean conscious enough to feel pain and have a concept of will to survive. But this is not measurable.

  • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Thursday June 15, @07:49AM

    by aristarchus (2645) on Thursday June 15, @07:49AM (#525907) Journal

    Wasn't this already covered in Exorcist 3 or 4? James Earl Jones, and some demon or the other, and the rubbing of the wings, and Linda Blair, of course.

    --
    guess who was the worst moderator on site, handing out more than twice the downmods of the next closest registered user
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