We need food to feed 7.6 billion people each day, sustainably. But a threat to food security that can cause inflation and food crises amidst the COVID19 pandemic has lifted its head!
Foods for millions of people is vanishing every day. Crops that took months to mature are disappearing in a few days.
These are the oldest migratory pests in the world, they belong to the family of grasshoppers. DESERT LOCUSTS are considered as the ‘Most Devastating’ of them all. They are short-horned grasshoppers and are known to change their behaviour to form swarms of adults or bands of hoppers.
LEARNING MORE ABOUT TINY BEASTS!!
LIFE SPAN: A desert locust lives a total of about 3-5 months, although it completely depends upon the ecological conditions. Prolonged monsoons and heavy cyclone make them reproduce faster, almost 20 folds within 3 months.
“In the past few years, there has been a significant increase in the frequency of such cyclones at the beginning and end of the summer period. For example, there were 8 cyclones in 2019 when in most years there are only one or two. Three cyclones in 2018 and two in 2019 have contributed to the current Desert Locust upsurge in the Horn of Africa where large and numerous swarms are present in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.”Keith Cressman, Senior Locust Forecasting Officer, FAO
SWARM SIZE AND BEHAVIOR: Locust swarms can vary from less than 1 sq km to several hundred sq km. There can be at least 40 million or sometimes as many as 80 million locust adults in each sq km of the swarm.
These insects are usually harmless to humans and animals. There is no evidence that suggests that locusts carry diseases that could harm humans.
As their population become dense, they change their behaviour, form swarms and start damaging crops. They change their behaviour from that of acting as an individual (Solitarious) to that as part of a group (Gregarious). In this case, they change their appearance from (Solitary adult) brown to (gregarious adults) pink (immature) and yellow (mature).
WHY THEY ARE DANGEROUS!!
According to FAO, an adult locust can eat a quantity equal to its weight – about 2 grams – every single day. Now, this might hardly seem like cause for concern.
But, a single square kilometre of the swarm can contain somewhere between 40-80 million adult locusts. Every single day, if they cover 130-150 kilometres, they can eat the food consumed by as many as 35,000 people.
For example, a swarm the size of New York City eats the same amount of food in one day as the population of New York and California combined would eat.
So, Indirectly they are destroying our mankind.
JOTTING THE MAJOR ISSUES FOR CONCERN!!
- It’s a plague that can cause famine.
- Swarms as big as cities are eating away vegetations and crops as they travel.
- Spreading from YEMEN to AFRICA and IRAN then to PAKISTAN and INDIA.
- They may even reach SPAIN and PORTUGAL.
- A locust swarm of 1 sq km may have 40 – 80 million locust.
- It can devour food meant for 35000 people in a single day.
- The swarm in INDIA is approximately 17 km long and 2.5 km wide.
- It is spreading fast to other Indian states like Gujrat, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
- The swarm in East Africa is supposed to be 59 km long and 40 km wide.
- The devastation of crops is colossal so much so that the PAKISTAN and SOMALIA have declared NATIONAL EMERGENCY.
- Failure to control Locust in YEMEN has brought us to a crisis of this scale.
- If the Locust are allowed to lay eggs now, a further 8000 times increase in the number of Locust is predicted.
Will we be able to withstand this?
TIME TO WORK ON IT!!
DESTROYING LOCUST EGGS: The first and most important activity is to locate and destroy the locust’s eggs in an organised manner by ploughing, harrowing and digging. Also digging 2′ x 2′ trenches around egg-laid areas will help entrap the nymphs, which are the flightless young of the locusts. As they move out after hatching, they are buried or killed with chemical sprays.
PEST CONTROL SOLUTIONS: Most households have adopted the chemical method of Pest Control to keep homes pest-free. We need Pest Control solutions to protect our farmer’s lands. We need to control the infestation quickly and effectively.
Tried and tested crop protection solutions are available. These pesticides do not harm the environment or people. They can save our food and farmers from locust.
HOW ABOUT PUTTING THEM ON THE PLATE:
FOR LIVESTOCK: Locust outbreaks create opportunities to develop protein-rich feed for fish and livestock, including poultry, pigs, pets and other domestic animals. Locusts have a high feed conversion efficiencies. The insect converts low-value carbohydrates like twigs and vegetation into body mass and high- quality food or feed.
FOR HUMAN: Locust are superior to beef. The locust has 72 per cent protein, including essential amino acids. They contain Omega-3, iron, zinc, Vitamin -C, folic acid, aeroplaneschitin, without cholesterol or saturated fat, antibiotics and hormones. Protein in locust meal exceed fish meal and reduces cost substantially.
AERIAL SPRAY METHOD: The most effective method of control are pesticides. There is an increase in the use of bio pesticides as well. These can be sprayed from land, vehicles or aerial spray from airplanes, helicopters or drones.
This method can cover a large area in a relatively short span of time. However, there is an urgent need to scale up these intensive ground and aerial control operations, especially to detect and reduce locust numbers.
MODERN SCIENTIFIC SOLUTIONS are the need of the hour to ensure our food security.
Hoping for a better future for our farmers and eventually US.
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