India has witnessed several locust plagues and upsurges since 1812 to 1997, but there has not been any major locust upsurge since 2011
The insects are known to originate in Arabian Peninsula, and invade India via Rajasthan-Pakistan border, just before the onset of the seasonal monsoon
NEW DELHI :
Huge swarms of locusts have descended over parts of northwest and central India, threatening standing crops, even as farmers continue to face the impact of the national lockdown in place to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The desert locust, one of the most devastating pests in the world, tends to arrive unexpectedly, often after a change in wind direction, from as far as West Asia, covering large distances across countries in search of food.
“A locust attack of this scale is happening after many years. They can be a serious menace, because they usually come in huge swarms of 1,000sq. km in size and they can only be destroyed at night when they settle on the trees using pesticides or fire, which is an uphill task," said S.N. Upadhyay, a Gwalior-based entomologist.
The insects are known to originate in West Asia, and come to India via Rajasthan-Pakistan border, just before the onset of the monsoon. They fly throughout the day, covering about 150km a day and settle on trees after sunset where they remain throughout the night. They breed rapidly, which makes it difficult to control them.
“They are known to come to India around June-July; but this year, they have come earlier than usual in April and in much larger numbers. So far, they have covered large parts of Rajasthan, parts of Gujarat, and reached Madhya Pradesh. We are tracking them using drones and the services of the fire brigade to bring them under control," said Dr K.L. Gujjar, deputy director, Locust Warning Organization.
The extent of loss is not clearly known yet, but the damage could be much more if the situation is not brought under control soon, as sowing of kharif crop begins in mid-June. Ecological conditions are often favourable for locust breeding from July to September during the monsoon.
The Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN had also warned that the impact of the locust attack could be far more serious this year than last year. Some countries in East Africa have already declared an emergency because of the loss caused by locusts.