Why the locust attack is a threat to India’s agriculture?

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The year 2020 has been exposing us to major threats one after the other. India is battling with several issues at once. The country is under the clutches of a global pandemic, the state of Bengal was hit by a super cyclone resulting in loss of life and massive damage to the state, and now the locust attack is being seen as a threat to agriculture as it is predicted to be one of the worst attacks in three decades.

Although locust attacks are very normal every year the damage this year has been done on a larger scale and the loss is predicted to be relatively higher. India is now gearing up to bear the loss left by these insects and strategising effectively to prevent it further.

What are locusts?

Locusts are the oldest migratory pests that belong to species of grasshopper. They can migrate over long distances. As their population increases, they form swarms and migrate for over 150 km in a day.

Swarms of locusts can consume as much food in a single day which could have been consumed by 35,000 people.

This poses a serious threat to the agricultural economy in India and the loss will be impactful. The rate at which these insects breed is also relatively high and concerning. A female locust can lay up to 60-80 eggs three times during its 90-day life cycle resulting in 40-80 million of these insects only in 1 sq km of land resulting in a locust plague, damaging crops severely. 

How is India coping with the attack?

The states presently affected by the attack are Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh. Swarms of locusts have attacked parts of these states destroying crops and causing immense damage to the agricultural economy. The loss is forecasted to be $ 2.88 billion for summer crops and $ 2.2 billion for winter crops.

An advisory has been issued to farmers in the affected districts by the agricultural department to use loud sounds for keeping the insects at bay by banging utensils and drums. Districts in Rajasthan have estimated a loss of 5,00,000 hectares of land making it the most affected state. The government has decided to provide compensation by paying for 25% of their claims to 6 districts. In Madhya Pradesh, around 60% of insects were removed by spraying pesticides.

On the other hand, the government has also strategised to prevent the damage further. New equipment and sprays have been rolled out and the use of drones to track the movement of these insects and spray insecticides beforehand to avoid an outbreak has also begun.

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