Climate change & locust infestations: FAO seeks adaptation plans at CoP26 event:


Why in the news?

Infestation of desert locusts, which has plagued a vast swathe from eastern Africa to India in recent years, is closely linked to climate change.

Key highlights:

  • The conference was recently held alongside the 26th Conference of Parties (CoP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 
  •  In the conference, Plans to mitigate climate change, therefore, must include action against pests and diseases, according to panelists at the Global Landscapes Forum Climate hybrid conference.

About Locust:

  • Locusts are a collection of certain species of short-horned grasshoppers in the family Acrididae that have a swarming phase.
  • These insects are usually solitary, but under certain circumstances they become more abundant and change their behavior and habits, becoming gregarious.
  • 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.

History of Locust:

  •  It is said  that locusts were part of the Mahabharata during Karna’s battle with Arjuna, modern-day records suggest that since the beginning of the 19th century, there have been at least eight “outbreaks” in India from 1812 to 1889.
  • According to the history of the Locust Warning Office published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), there were “serious invasions” of locusts in India every few years during the 1900s.

Impacts of Locust attacks:

  • Locusts have been a bane especially to farmers in several countries, including India, Pakistan and Iran.
  • In East Africa and Yemen alone, damages and losses in 2020 due to locusts could amount to as much as $8.5 billion.
  • Locust infestations can also harm livelihoods and be a threat to regional investments in ensuring food security.
  • They are a threat to pollinators and wildlife.
  • There are two meteorological drivers behind the current locust attack in India:
  1. The unseasonal heavy rains in the mainspring-breeding tracts in the Arabian peninsula in March-April.
  2. The strong westerly winds from the Arabian peninsula to India.

Affected areas:

  • Locusts have been a bane especially to farmers in several countries, including India, Pakistan and Iran.
  • Swarms of desert locusts entered western India from Pakistan and destroyed crops in many states such as Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh (UP), Madhya Pradesh.

What steps should be taken to prevent it:

  • Preventive control of the locust attack by aerial spraying of the optimum amount of insecticides at all possible breeding sites, along with continuous crop monitoring during the subsequent Kharif season, is required.
  • There is a need to strengthen the disaster management framework at the local level as highlighted by the Fourteenth Finance Commission report and Disaster Management Act, 2005.
  • A broad-spectrum pesticide is a powerful pesticide that targets entire groups or species of organisms.
  • The Indian Institute of Sugarcane Research, Lucknow, advised farmers to spray chemicals like l deltamethrin, fipronil, or malathion to control the swarms.

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