Locust Attack – A new threat to Indian Food Economy

Locust belongs to order Orthoptera which completes its life cycle in three distinct stages namely Egg, Nymph and Adult and are capable to travel 150 km in day depending upon on wind speed. Locust swarms devastates crops and cause major agricultural damages, which can lead to starvations and even famines.

Not only they devours leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, growing points, they sometime eat barks. A swarms covering 1-1.5 square km consists of 4-8 crore locusts, while the swarm currently observed in Rajasthan was as big as 2-2.5 square km. One can easily imagine the severity of this particular invasion in India. According to FAO, the swarm can eat food of 35000 people in a single day. It is estimated that desert locust consumes the equivalent of three body weight (2 gm) each day of green vegetation. They are polyphagous and feed on leaves, shoots, flowers, fruits, seeds almost every plant part. Locust eats nearly all crops and non crop plants and weeds also.

By Charles J Sharp - Own work, from Sharp Photography, sharpphotography, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59068817

Origin

The swarm has originated from Africa and has move from Uganda, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and through Pakistan before entering India through the Gujarat border.

Environmental Factors Responsible For Outbreak In India

Wind

Due to abnormal weather conditions activities specially caused by the two cyclones enabled unprecedented breeding and growth of locust population in Arabian Peninsula early last year. Wind pattern have been pushing the swarms in southwest direction. Strong wind speed of 20-25 km per hour is helpful to migrate from one place to another.

Temperature

The hot summer has also favored the locust swarm outbreak in India (Temperature about 35┬░C) and is most favourable for breeding of locust

Rain

Strong wind along with rainfall are most helpful to locust population for travelling thousands of miles. Due to rainfall abundant amount of green foliage is available to locust swarms.

Humidity

Relative Humidity (RH) plays a key role on the life cycle of locust. RH above 85% always favours growth of adult locust.

Photoperiod

Locust are always light loving insects and continuous presence of light up to 8-10 hours in summer month has favoured locust invasion in India.

Impact in India

The current locust invasion is the worst in India since 1993. It has already attacked the crops in Rajasthan on large scale. It has already wipe out crops over 500000 ha area in Rajasthan. In Gujarat the attack may spread to 12 Districts. The condition is even worst in Madhya Pradesh as the infestation is spread over 16 districts. In Uttar Pradesh the infestation will hit in at least 17 districts. And eastern part of Maharashtra likely to hit with the infestation. As per FAO reports, the infestation is likely to get severe by next month.

 

Management/Preventive Measure

Cultural control

  • Cultivating the soil where eggs were laid by exposing. They dry out and eaten by birds.

Mechanical Control

  • Killing the hoppers with flame throwers and crushing them with rollers.

Chemical Control

  • Spraying the crop with Lambda-Cyhalothrin 5% EC 400 ml in 600 litre water. Or
  • Spray of Diflubenzuron 120 ml in 600 ml water.
  • Use of Poison bait- Prepare poison baits by mixing Fipronil 5% EC in wheat or Bajra flour and place the baits in affected field 30 kg/ha.
  • Dusting the crop with Methyl parathion 2% dust @ 25-30 kg/ha.

 

Constant Monitoring and Predictive Analytics

  • Constant monitoring and surveillance will not help with prevention but will help predict a possible infestation

 

Agsmartic has developed an autonomous plant pest detection system, which uses Computer Vision, to detect early pest infestation. Our studies have showed that a system like if deployed as a grid can help understand the movement of such pest very early.