India Battles Against the Army of Locusts With Insecticides

ON 06/05/2020 AT 17:52 PM

India is ordering new equipment to control the its worst desert locust outbreak in decades. The latter part of controlling this situation has brought up questions about how ecologically unhealthy a choice the use of pesticides are.

A desert Locust. Photo: J.M.Garg / CC BY

India is ordering new equipment to control the its worst desert locust outbreak in decades - before summer crop-sowing gathers pace in the middle of this month.

The locusts infestation has been brought under control at 399 locations in five states.

Two government sources have said that an order of 60 new insecticide spraying machines have been placed.

Authorities have used specialist vehicles and fire engines to spray insecticides in an area of 55,542 hectares in the western states of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra, central state of Madhya Pradesh and Punjab, and Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in the north.

The government also plans to buy five helicopter-mounted spray systems to curb the fast-spreading swarms by mid-June when monsoon rains help farmers boost rice, cane, corn, cotton and soybean sowing, according to the sources, who are directly involved in formulating plans to tackle the scourge.

Nearly half of the 60 insecticide spraying machines will arrive this week, they said.

India needs to stop the infestation from spreading further to ensure the swarms do not devour summer crops.

“We’ve been rather lucky that we’ve got a week or two to get our acts together and stop locusts before summer sowing gathers momentum,” said Bhagirath Choudhary, director of the South Asia Biotech Centre, a non-profit scientific society.

The locust infestation has not caused significant damage so far due to the lean season - the gap between the previous harvest and the next planting season.

The farm ministry should be allowed to use drones to spray insecticides on vast swathes of northern, western and central plains - the main farm belt, Choudhary said.

That being said, the use of pesticides may control the Locust infestation, but is it a healthy choice for the crops, the soil or rather the people at large for whom these crops are being grown for?

"Chemical (synthetic) pesticides may be harmful to the environment and humans because of their neurotoxic effects. They target an animal’s nervous system and, at higher concentrations, the nervous system of people handling the substance.

Insecticide fungi are applied as spores to kill the locusts. This can take a long period of time and requires certain climate conditions, so it often won’t work as expected. This fungus also has unwanted side-effects on species that aren’t being targeted, such as scarab beetles and termites." - The Conversation.

The latter part of controlling this situation has brought up questions about how ecologically healthy a choice – the use of pesticides are.