Coronavirus outbreak has marked catastrophe in our mind. This year would have been skipped by the entire world if given the chance. Many countries are forced to brace for another crisis while grappling with a pandemic that has yet to be addressed. A desert locust attack!
The desert locust is one of the 12 short-horned grasshopper species, and its swarms can migrate up to 130 kilometers in a single day. A locust can feast on approximately two grams of fresh vegetation per day. This indicates that they are capable of destroying not only valuable standing crops but also the livelihoods of those involved in the food supply chain.
They typically migrate in desert areas to breed. Climate change, pandemic followed by lockdown, and stormy winds forced them to move to the grass fields sooner this year than expected.
Plants like shrubs and grasses can be completely stripped of their leaves and stems by vicious swarms of locusts and a single swarm can consist of around 80-150 million locusts. When plant food is scarce, they consume dry plant matter on the ground and may forage for poor or dead grasshoppers. Since nymphs have a larger appetite than adults, they cause more harm.
Let’s have a look at some recent invasions!
Locusts destroy nearly 8 000 hectares of crops
Zimbabwe | March 20, 2021
Locusts have reportedly ravaged sorghum, millet, and maize destroying nearly 8 000 hectares of the crops in Chiredzi and Mwenezi. the worst infestation in decades that could leave scores of farmers facing food insecurity.
Crop damage ranged from 3-92% depending on the crop,” said Nyamutukwa. “Sorghum is the worst affected crop and it constituted the greater part of the affected 7853,2 hectares of cropland in Chiredzi and Mwenezi.”
Affected crops included sorghum, pearl millet, beans, maize, sugarcane, and cowpeas.
Over 200,000 hectares of crops lost to locust attacks since 2019
India | March 16, 2021
Locust attacks in the country damaged at least 200,000 hectares (ha) of crops across 10 states in the last two years, according to a reply by the Union government in Parliament.
The locust attacks between 2019 and 2021 were the most serious in the country since 1993.
During 2019-20, locust incursion was reported in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Punjab. In the following year, the insects attacked Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra, according to agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar.
Rajasthan and Gujarat reported the highest crop losses of at least 179,750 ha and 21,500 ha, respectively, over the two years.
During 2020-21, while Uttar Pradesh reported a nominal crop loss of 202.9 ha, vegetation damage was below 33 percent in Maharashtra (805.8 ha) and Uttarakhand (292.4 ha).
Also, just one swarm can cover 20% of the land surface of the Earth, affecting the livelihood of 10% of the world’s population by consuming up to 200 tonnes of vegetation per day.
These invasions proved that locusts can be extremely dangerous. They are so many and they can occupy thousands of square kilometers. They wreck everything that comes in their track, including green plants and crops.
An insecticide is currently the most widely used control method. Whole swarms can be attacked in a short period if sprayed from land or air vehicles. However, this has inevitably resulted in some environmental issues.
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