Urgent measures required to fight desert locust breakout

November 30, 2019 - 16:55

TEHRAN – Given the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) warnings of desert locust breakout, fighting these insects before entering the country requires a national will and comprehensive plan.

Provinces on the southern and southeastern borders which will be the first to locusts’ infestations can prevent swarms from entering other provinces, however, a national will and a large amount of money in required, according to agricultural officials.

The experience of fighting Desert Locust outbreak over the past year can help eradicate swarms sooner this time.

On the other hand, desert locust summer breeding, amplified by heavy rains, can result in potentially adverse impacts on the agricultural seasonal yields and local economies affecting food security and livelihoods of the populations in the countries concerned”, IRNA reported on Wednesday.

Locust infestation more extensive this year

Saeid Barkhori, head of the Kerman province’s agricultural organization said that this year, locust outbreak will be three times more than last year which is a serious threat to the region.

This year, locust eggs hatchings will invade south Kerman, also locusts returning from India and Pakistan, and those coming from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Africa, he lamented.

Because of the lack of fighting in India and Pakistan, the Jazmourian Wetland is the only permanent locust egg bed in Iran, so this year we are expected to have a locust population much higher than last year, he regretted.

Shortage of budget, lack of operational vehicles, old cars and spraying fleet, impassable areas, adverse weather conditions, and inadequate plane lanes are among the barriers to fighting locusts in southern Kerman, he explained.

Stating that this year's agricultural product conservation budget stands at 20 billion rials (nearly $485,000), he noted that 17 billion rials (about $405,000) were spent to fight locusts last year.

He went on to say that we anticipate a dangerous situation in locust infestation in the province, adding, fighting locusts is beyond our crisis management capacity.

Locust eradication operation on 150,000 ha of farmlands

Mohammad Reza Sardouei, an official with the provincial agricultural organization, said that intensive ground and aerial control operations were implemented across 150,000 hectares of land.

Pointing out that last year there was no significant damage to agricultural lands and crops, he said that the issue has been well tackled with dedicated efforts and cooperation of related organizations and locals in the province.

Locust swarms pose serious threats to people

Majid Faroukhi, an official with the provincial agricultural organization also said that damage to crops, endangering food security, and political problems (the need for officials to respond) are the effects of locust invasion on human societies.

Inaccessibility of reproductive zones of these insects, high mobility, probability of pesticide resistance, high flying ability, and migratory ability, and changes in the behavior, color and physiology of locusts are among their differences and other pests, he explained.

This type of locust is not indigenous to Iran and is originally from other countries including, Africa, Saudi Arabia, India, and Pakistan, he added.

Last year’s outbreak 

Last year, desert locusts penetrated into the provinces of Bushehr, Fars, Hormozgan, Kerman, Khuzestan, and Sistan–Baluchestan, which resulted in major losses on over 500,000 hectares farmlands and gardens.
The Iranian parliament, known as Majlis, allocated a total budget of 100 billion rials (nearly $2.3 million) to fight desert locusts.

Desert locusts are short-horned grasshoppers that can form large swarms and pose a major threat to agricultural production, livelihoods, food security, and the environment and economic development.

FAO explains that adult locust swarms can fly up to 150 km a day with the wind. Female locusts can lay 300 eggs within their lifetime while an adult insect can consume roughly its own weight in fresh food per day - about two grams every day. A very small swarm eats the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people and the devastating impact locusts can have on crops poses a major threat to food security, especially in already vulnerable areas.

During quiet periods (known as recessions) desert locusts are usually form groups in deserts of Africa, the Near East and South-West Asia that receive less than 200 mm of rain annually. This is an area of about 16 million square kilometers, consisting of about 30 countries.


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