Why is locust infestation a problem in India this year? Reason, future course explained

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Published: May 29, 2020 5:01 PM

In just two months, desert locusts have multiplied and have been causing problems for many farmers as locust swarms are destroying crops on their way.

locust attackLocust swarm size this big has the ability to travel up to 150 km in a day.

Locust infestation in India: In just two months, desert locusts have multiplied and have been causing problems for many farmers as locust swarms are destroying crops on their way. To understand why locust infestation is problematic, it is necessary to know what makes these locusts roam around many kilometers and wreak havoc. A report by the IE explains that they live and breed in areas that are semi-arid or are desert regions. As they need bare land to lay eggs, huge desert and barren lands of Rajasthan makes up for the perfect conditions far away from areas of dense vegetation. Once the egg hatches, they fly away from the desert lands.

Why do locusts fly to areas with dense vegetation?

The report highlighted that after the eggs hatch, they need to feed on green vegetation for growth and turn into an adult moth from nymph. Since deserts do not provide leafy cover, they venture out to the plains so that the large locust population can grow.

Are locusts dangerous?

Crop-devouring insects are not dangerous when they are roaming alone or in a small isolated group. It becomes a problem when they grow in a huge number. In such scenarios, there is a behavioural change and some transformation into forming swarms, the report said. It is to note that a single swarm can include up to 40-80 million adults that too in one square km. Also, swarm size this big has the ability to travel up to 150 km in a day. This usually happens when conditions are favorable to them- a desert area and some vegetation nearby.

Why are they such a problem this year?

Some favourable conditions are present for the growth of locusts since the beginning of this year. The large scale breeding is a consequence of unusual rainfall which turned into many hoppers and immature adult groups. As the cyclom Amphan hit the shores, it caused changes in the wind, drawing the swarms of locusts into the central parts of the country, the report said. Therefore, main reasons behind the locusts infestation can be attributed to the unseasonal heavy rains during their breeding season and strong westerly winds.

Another aspect, the report highlighted, is that the swarms are full of immature locusts which feed on the vegetations voraciously. Since kharif crops are to be sown, it can cause big problems. These insects can eat equivalent to their own weight, that too on fresh food. Currently, with no crops in the fields, the report mentioned that the swarms have invaded green spaces like parks and orchards in Jaipur and Nagpur.

What can be done to prevent infestation?

The locusts have to be controlled with some proactive exercises that manage their movements and spraying of concentrated insecticides (ultra-low volume). All kharif crops will need to be monitored throughout the season, else it will become another major problem in India at a time when the country is already battling with Coronavirus outbreak.

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