Now, Locusts attack India's agriculture amid coronavirus pandemic

WION New Delhi, India May 26, 2020, 09.43 PM(IST) Edited By: Palki Sharma

While locusts had entered into India in April itself, some areas are seeing their worst attack in decades, including Jaipur and parts of MP. Photograph:( Twitter )

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India has not witnessed any full-blown locust cycles after 1962.

After the coronavirus pandemic, India is braced for another unwelcome guest in the form of the world's most dangerous migratory pests - locusts.

Large swarms of parasitic bugs entered the country via Pakistan in April and have been feeding on crops, pasture, and fodder. It is the worst locust attack on India in 26 years.

Also read: Now, new challenge facing South Asia in form of locusts

The locusts spread from the horn of Africa to Yemen, then flew to Iran before attacking hectares of cotton fields in Pakistan. The pests have now attacked in India.

A single swarm can cover one square kilometer and can ravage crops meant for over 35,000 people with over 80 to 150 million locusts.

They possess the ability to breed phenomenally and have a long flying range. In a single day, they cover about 150 kilometers. These pests have been giving farmers sleepless nights since winters.

Over the past year, most of the farmlands affected by locusts have lost over one-third of their crops. They usually come to India around June to feed on summer crops but this year they landed in April.

It has jeopardised the agriculture-based economies of several states and there is no quick-fix solution to the pest menace.

Truck loads of pesticides are being sent to different parts of the country but the pests can only be destroyed at night when they settle on the trees.

Even drones are being used to counter this problem but unfortunately it is much bigger due to global warming. The higher temperature even in winter is perfect for locusts to breed.

They have journeyed the world from Africa to West Asia to South Asia.

Locusts arrived in Pakistan from Iran in June 2019 where they devoured the summer crops including cotton, wheat and maize. Although the invasion was expected to subside but it did not. The locusts stayed and spread. 

Some of the poorest countries in the world are the worst-affected. Locusts have threatened food security and livelihoods in East and West Africa, South and West Asia, and India.

India is coordinating a joint-effort with Iran and Pakistan to stop the emergence of fresh swarms of locusts.

For India, this is a national calamity. In the past, locusts have caused plagues in the country. But, India has not witnessed any full-blown locust cycles after 1962. The problem cannot be swatted away easily and requires a sustained response like the COVID-19 virus.