Locust swarms headed towards Delhi; crops threatened in many states

The massive group of migratory grasshopper species can travel up to 150 km a day with a speed of 15-20 kmph
India is battling its worst desert locust outbreak in decades with infestations in Gujarat, Rajasthan Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh 

The swarms of desert locusts, known for feeding on green leaves and causing extensive damage to vegetation, are now suspected to be heading towards Delhi and the national capital region (NCR). 

Locust is a large, mainly tropical grasshopper, with strong powers of flight and it migrates in vast swarms causing widespread crop loss. Locusts entered Rajasthan from Pakistan earlier this month, and then drifted into other parts of western India. The massive swarms can travel up to 150 km a day with a speed of 15-20 kmph.

The national capital has been kept on alert as such swarms of locusts are currently active in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan is the worst-affected state till now. According to entomologists, the locust outbreak in Delhi can be severe if the wind speed moving towards the north is favourable for the arrival of insects. 

Higher than normal temperatures have helped locusts spread more rapidly in different parts of the states. The migratory pests travel during the day time and fly using wind direction. 

The impact of locust attack on Delhi could be alarming as 22 per cent of its area is under green cover, which can provide breeding ground for the pests, according to The Times of India. The report said that India Meteorological Department (IMD) is monitoring the meteorological conditions to help the agriculture ministry in determining where the locusts are headed.

The Chhattisgarh agriculture department and farmers of districts bordering Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra have also been alerted after swarms of locusts attacked crops in the neighbouring states. Locusts have reached Amravati (Maharashtra) and Mandla (Madhya Pradesh) from Rajasthan and may enter the bordering districts of Chhattisgarh in a day or two.

The fast-spreading swarms of locusts have damaged orange crop and vegetable plantations in some areas of Nagpur and Wardha districts in Maharashtra. 

To save crops and vegetation from the migratory pests, farmers have been advised to use pesticides like malathion, fenvalerate and quinalphos, and report the presence of a locust attack to authorities. Farmers have arranged water tankers and chemicals for spraying as advised by the agricultural departments.

Western Rajasthan and Gujarat are the normal places for desert locusts during the summer (from approximately June to November), but the first locust attack of this year was reported from Ganganagar, a district in north Rajasthan bordering Pakistan, on May 11.

The wave of locust attacks has alarmed country's farmers and experts warn of extensive crop losses if authorities fail to curb fast-spreading swarms by June when monsoon rains spur rice, cane, corn, cotton and soybean sowing. Desert locusts have engulfed around 35,000 hectares in India's seven heartland states, threatening some vegetable and pulse crops, government officials and farm experts said.

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