Locust Attack - Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report

Locust Attack -  Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report

Context: During the past couple of weeks, major locust attacks are witnessed in several countries in Asia (especially western and southern) and in some parts of the eastern Africa.

Locust Attack -  Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report

Which countries are affected?  

United Nations (UNs) subsidiary Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) pinpoint three hotspots of minacious (frightening) locust activity, where the situation has been labelled “Extremely Alarming”. These hotspots are …
  • Some parts of Southwest Asia 
  • The famous Horn of Africa 
  • Area surrounding Red Sea 

  1. Worst Affected: The Horn of Africa, the FOA fears of unparalleled commination to food security and livelihood in the surrounding area.
  2. These locusts swarm believed to have travelled from Ethiopia and Somalia towards Kenya and as many as 14 more countries.
  3. Countries affected surrounding the Red Sea are Yemen, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
  4. Countries affected by the “locust swarms” in the southwest area are Pakistan, Islamic Republic of Iran. Pakistan had the major hit.

Majorly affected countries Pakistan and Somalia recently declared National Emergencies.

What are locusts? 

  1. Locusts are particular kind of grasshoppers (with short-horned) in the family Acrididae.  
  2. These creatures have the swarming phase once in their lifetime. 
  3. Under normal conditions these insects are usually solitary but under particular circumstances they show anomalous behaviours an may change in their behaviours and living conditions, become convivial or organised and together they form swarms. 
  4. There are disputes on the opinions, whether this grasshopper specie form the swarm under periodically or only under certain conditions are meet. 
  5. Generally, locusts are harmless, and their population is usually low and do not pose any sweeping or substantial economic threat to agriculture. 
  6. However, contradictory to the above statement, it is observed that climatic condition of a draught followed by immediate & abundance in vegetation make it suitable for them to breed in abundance.  
  7. The “Serotonin” in their brain set-off unseen changes making them innocuous and migratory (nomadic) in nature, once their population is dense enough to from the swarm. 
  8. They transition from the group of wingless insects, to swarms of winged locust. Both the wingless and winged migrate around and clean out the crop fields and are harmful to crops. The winged adults are strong fliers; they may migrate to great distances (up to 150+ km in 24 hours) and eat-up most of the green fields whenever and wherever they decide the settle.

Types of locust found in India 

In India and surrounding subcontinents there are around four species of locust …
  • Desert Locust (Scientific name: Schistocerca gregaria)
  • Migratory Locust (Scientific name: Locusta migratoria)
  • Bombay Locust (Scientific name: Patanga succincta or Nomadacris succincta)
  • Tree Locust (Scientific name: Anacridium aegyptium or Egyptian locust)

Historic Facts about Locust Swarms 

  • Locust have the massive impact since prehistoric period for spreading plagues. 
  • Egyptians had locust carved on their tombs.
  • These creatures got mentioned in religious literature the Bible, the Quran and the Iliad (Song of Ilion or Ilium). 
  • According to historical facts mentioned in ancient books and literature, “Locust Swarms” has ravaged crop fields, responsible for spreading plagues and famines and also influenced human migration.
  • There has been, many efforts in controlling these locust trouble but somehow, they seem to be resistant to the measures employed in controlling their trouble throughout the world. However, the improvement in agriculture practices and controlling measures at the hotspots (points of locust swarms' origin) are proved to be effective nowadays.

Locust and crop field damage

  • The swarms consume and destroy crucial parts of the plant i.e. leaves, tender flowers, fruits, seeds, trunk and bark and important growing points, and also devour plants by their total weight as they descend on crop fields in massive numbers. 
  • The desert locust (schistocerca gregaria) in particular is considered the leading, hostile and ruinous pest in India also as internationally, with a small swarm of desert locust covering the area of only one square kilometre having the potentiality to consume a coequal amount of food of 35,000 adult people. 

Source: The Hindu

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