Agri Business

Early arrival of locust swarms is worrisome, says scientist

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on June 01, 2020 Published on June 01, 2020

Even as the Prime Minister has assured farmers of help in fighting massive locust attacks, the early arrival of the desert locust swarms has set off alarms bells in the agriculture scientist and entomologist community. The community had expected a smaller infestation in June and July, but the early arrival has the community worried about the kharif sowing.

A senior scientist told BusinessLine that in a day, massive swarms can damage crops equal in volume to the amount of food consumed by 35,000 humans. Usually, smaller attacks happen between June and July, but this year, by early March mega swarms had started their destruction in Rajasthan and Gujarat. The damage to the crop by these ravenous eaters is equivalent to their weight.

Another unusual sign is its mega spread over North and West India. The swarms have travelled much beyond their traditional areas in Rajasthan and have reached States such as Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. The last time Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh had faced locust attacks was in 1993 and Maharashtra in 1974, the scientist said.

The scientist pointed out that climate change along with the May 2018 cyclone in Oman and Yemen, which dumped three years’ worth of rain in a single day, created much higher availability of water in the desert regions, which are breeding grounds of the locust. Such factors have led to an abnormal rise in locust population.

The scientist said that along with chemical pesticides, traditional methods such as burning of bunches of dried chilli or a sprinkling of chilli powder on the grass and then burning with oil can also be used by the farmers, as the strong toxic smell drives away the swarms.

In August 1993, India had to appeal to the Food and Agriculture Organisation for $1-million aid for fighting the locusts’ incursion, which at that time had also happened from Pakistan. Today, India is in a much better situation financially, the scientist added.

Published on June 01, 2020
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