The severity of a swarm of desert locusts can be assessed with the fact that a single locust swarm may contain 4 to 7 billion locusts. These swarms can consume in a single day an equivalent of what at least 3 million people would consume. The locusts require a suitable climate i.e. good rainfall, dense vegetation to undergo metamorphosis.
The Locusts Threat Analysis Of Incidents And Current Scenario In India Pakistan
Keywords: Locusts Attack in Pakistan, Locusts Attack in India, Locusts Formation, Food Organization, Desert Locusts, Metamorphosis, Hoppers, Swarm, Insecticides, Pesiticides
The bad omens figuratively promised by 2020 have not reduced by any means as the year is passing. Amidst the virulent Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic all around the globe, certain other regional incidents are also evident in different parts of the world. Leading this list of unfortunate events is the locust’s attacks witnessed mostly in Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and most recently in the India-Pakistan region. The damage done in this specific region is humongous as was recorded by UN Food and Agriculture organization that as much as 38% of the total agricultural fields of Pakistan were transformed into breeding zones for these locusts and completely eaten away by these pests. Famines of local scale were observed in low lying areas of Baluchistan and northern Punjab, which already fall among the poorest areas of Pakistan. The kharif crops especially mango and cotton were severely mutilated across wide spans of these regions.
Technically speaking, the species of locusts responsible for these global outbursts is commonly called the desert locust. They have an evolved ability to change their morphological features from a solitary living form into an adult, highly mobile, more sociable form called gregarious form. This specific specie is considered the most dangerous migratory pest specie in the world, owing to the above-mentioned reason, plus their enhanced reproducibility, long migration distances covered in relatively short durations, and rapid destruction of the crops they attack. The severity of a swarm of desert locusts can be assessed with the fact that a single locust swarm may contain 4 to 7 billion locusts. These swarms can consume in a single day an equivalent of what at least 3 million people would consume. The locusts require a suitable climate i.e. good rainfall, dense vegetation to undergo metamorphosis. During the morphing period, the locusts release a chemical pheromone which stimulates them to be attracted towards each other and form a cluster of hoppers which induces swarm formation. A typical swarm follows the wind pattern, and may travel as much as 150 kilometers per day.
After a general analysis of numbers involved and morphological characteristics of these attacks, the prevailing question is how to prevent or at least control this threat? Locusts attack have been a recurring incident throughout history. Different preventive methods have been adopted and discarded with the passage of time. The most common solution adopted by so many countries nowadays is spraying insecticides/pesticides on the crops already attacked or are most likely to be infested. This can be considered a quick action process as majority of locusts will be eliminated with the extensive use of pesticides. However, the crops left after the spraying process will be highly contaminated for human’s usage.
A direct alternative can be the use of eco-friendly pesticides. This way, the crops will be less contaminated. The downside to this method is that along with the crops, the locusts will also be less affected by it, they will have reduced metabolism which will reduce their activity and make them drowsy. There have been a few unique methods used in Indo-Pak, including a directive given by the government of Okara for the farmers to catch locusts from their fields, for which they would be awarded monetarily. Locusts would then be used in chicken feed instead of soybean oil which the government had to import. This scheme potentially had positive impacts on the overall economy as well. Another popular method used by Indian villager was to use extensive noise to keep locusts away from their fields. The only shortcoming was that this method was only valid on a short scale. Moreover, a recent breakthrough has come into focus by the pest control researchers. They have investigated the probable cause of swarms forming chemical called pheromone. If there is a way to genetically alter that chemical forming genes from the locust community, the locust’s population would not congregate into swarms at all. This could be a turning point for the whole locust attacks history. Extensive researches are being conducted regarding this issue.