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Locust attacks

Topics Covered: Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage.

Locust attacks

What to study?

For Prelims: What are locusts, how they affect crops? Affected countries.

For Mains: Concerns, effects, challenges and ways to address them.

Context: During the past few weeks, major locust attacks have been observed in several countries in western and southern Asia and in eastern Africa.

 Which countries are affected?

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has currently identified three hotspots of threatening locust activity, where the situation has been called “extremely alarming” — the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea area, and southwest Asia.

  1. The Horn of Africa has been called the worst-affected area, where the FAO has said there is “an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods”.
  2. Locust swarms from Ethiopia and Somalia have travelled south to Kenya and 14 other countries in the continent.
  3. In the Red Sea area, locusts have struck in Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Yemen.
  4. In southwest Asia, locusts swarms have caused damage in Iran, India, and Pakistan.
  5. Pakistan and Somalia have recently declared locust emergencies.

What are locusts?

Locusts are a group of short-horned grasshoppers that multiply in numbers as they migrate long distances in destructive swarms (up to 150km in one day).

Four species of locusts are found in India: Desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria), Migratory locust (Locusta migratoria), Bombay Locust (Nomadacris succincta) and Tree locust (Anacridium sp.).

How do they inflict damage?

  • The swarms devour leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, bark and growing points, and also destroy plants by their sheer weight as they descend on them in massive numbers.
  • The desert locust is regarded as the most destructive pest in India as well as internationally, with a small swarm covering one square kilometre being able to consume the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people.

Sources: Indian Express.