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Chinese experts offer advice to locust-hit Indiaqrcode

Jun. 25, 2020

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Jun. 25, 2020

Chinese expert Wang Tongwei collects locust samples in Khushab, Punjab province, Pakistan, March 2, 2020. The government of China sent an emergency response team of experts to Pakistan to help control the locust plague there. The experts have visited almost all affected areas, including Tharparkar desert in southern Sindh province, southwest Balochistan province and different affected districts of Punjab where locusts have already laid eggs. 


Chinese experts offered advice to neighboring India as it faces its worst locust swarm in 27 years, amid the novel coronavirus epidemic. 


The Indian government should conduct a large-scale spraying of pesticides and track locust movements through weather (wind pattern) monitoring, experts suggested. 


According to local media, the pests have destroyed more than 50,000 hectares of cropland in India, the most devastating locust attack since 1993. Seen as a huge threat to food security, locust swarms are able to travel 150 kilometers a day, eating up crops and greenery along their way.


Drones, tractors and pesticides were all being used to ward off the locust swarms. Some local residents even banged on pans to create noises to repel the insects, reported Indian media. 


Given the strong breeding capacity of locusts, large-scale and multiple rounds of spraying of pesticides are required, and the opportunity to spray when eggs are being hatched must be taken, Zhou Li, a professor at the School of Agriculture Economics and Rural Development at Renmin University of China in Beijing, said on Thursday. 


KL Gurjar, a deputy director of the Indian locust warning authority, told media that eight to 10 swarms have been found in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh states, each around a square kilometer in size.


One female locust adult is able to lay 80 to 90 eggs three times during her three-month life, and the swarm can grow to 40 million to 80 million locusts per square kilometer if the situation gets out of hand, Indian media pointed out. 


However, Zhou noted that only better climate will ward off locusts if India is incapable of spraying insecticides on a larger scale for long periods amid the coronavirus outbreak and economic devastation. 


Starting from the locust outbreak in Horn of Africa, scientists noted that India‘s locust plague was driven by climate change, namely, the “unusually warm weather and more rain,”as reported on Wednesday. 


According to the India Today report, the United Nation‘s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned that the locust invasion is likely to become severe by next month. The desert locust invasion is expected to move from East Africa to India and Pakistan next month and could be accompanied by other swarms.


Wu Kongming, a vice president of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, told the Global Times that in addition to pesticide spraying and ensuring sufficient supplies, India needs to monitor the weather in the future, as locust migration paths largely depend on the wind direction. This means that they can take timely precautions against possible locust infestations before their arrival. 


There are two kinds of pesticides that can be used – biological pesticides that are less harmful to the environment and human body, and chemical pesticides that work better, said Wu, noting that India needs to make a choice based on its situation. 


India and Pakistan are working closely on fighting the locust swarm, with nine online meetings held between the two countries since April, reported, citing an Indian official. According to Aljazeera, some hard-hit regions in India are close to the border of Pakistan, and the locust warning authority recently warned that wind patterns have been pushing the locust clusters southwest.


Both experts believe that the wave of locust swarms is unlikely to affect China‘s major grain-producing areas in its Southwest regions, as China has a comprehensive system and sufficient supplies for coping with the insects. 


The Chinese government has been conducting risk assessments and environmental monitoring since the alert for the first wave in February. So far, the risk of a locust invasion in China is low, and China also has the ability to contain potential threats in a timely manner, said Wu. 


More than 1,000 anti-locust staff have been trained by local forestry and grassland authorities in Southwest China‘s Yunnan Province and 1.35 million yuan ($188,000) has been allocated to prevent locust invasions and ensure crop safety in China, the Xinhua News Agency reported on May 14.


Many Chinese netizens have showed sympathy for Indian people who are suffering from multiple crises at the same time, including the COVID-19 pandemic, locust plague and economic recession.


“I hope Indian people will suffer less. We are all human beings living on the Earth with a shared future,” said a netizen on Sina Weibo on Thursday. 


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