Sunday 16 February 2020

Locust swarm reaches China

Locusts are coming! 
Warning: 400 billion locusts 
have reached the Chinese 


  ▲ Distribution map of different forms of locusts and desert locust migration map published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
14 February, 2020
  On February 11, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) issued an early warning to the world, saying that it hopes that the world will be on high alert to the locust plague that is now raging to prevent the food crisis in the invaded countries. It is reported that the locust disaster started in Africa, then flew over the Red Sea into Europe and Asia, and has now reached Pakistan and India, which is only one step away from China.
  ▲ African migratory locust (picture from the Internet)
  Wherever locusts go, they can only be described as "tragic." According to FAO statistics, the damage caused by the locust disaster to crops was the highest in 25 years in East Africa and the highest in 70 years in Kenya; while Somalia and Ethiopia directly announced that agricultural production had completely stagnated, and millions of lives were affected Unprecedented threat. FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Semedo issued the strongest warning: "Countries must act together immediately, locusts will not wait, it will overwhelm and create devastating disasters."
  ▲ Source: Dr. Abbas, Pakistan Museum of Natural History
  As far as neighbouring Pakistan and India are concerned, they are also under unprecedented pressure.
  Pakistan has been hit by a double invasion by African locusts and Iranian locusts, creating a locust plague that has not been seen in the country for 27 years. Pakistani officials say that locusts currently destroy about 35,000 rations every day. If left unchecked, the country will be without food. To this end, Pakistan has declared a state of emergency, using hundreds of aircraft for pesticide spraying and eviction, and one of them unfortunately crashed in Rahim Yar Khan while operating; In the locust plague, "Batie" donated 300,000 masks, 6,500 sets of protective clothing and 8,000 pairs of medical gloves to China for the first time in the new coronavirus epidemic in Wuhan, which can be said to be true.
  India, like Pakistan, has suffered an unprecedented blow. According to India ’s Rajasthan Finance Minister, 400 billion locusts attacked the state, causing a large number of crops to be destroyed and spreading to other states. 700,000 Indian troops had to withdraw their troops because of all their food, which also directly eased the pressure on Pakistan; some scholars in India predicted that the locust plague will reduce India ’s food production by 30-50%, which has greatly raised the concern of the Indian government. The Indian Prime Minister Modi even took the initiative to reach out to Pakistan for an armistice.
  Pakistan and India are Chinese neighbors. Whether the locust plague in their territory poses a threat to China and how to defend and manage it is an issue that needs attention now. To this end, the Chinese Academy of Sciences interviewed relevant experts from the Institute of Zoology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the College of Life Sciences of Hebei University, and the Institute of Biological Resources and Application of the Guangdong Academy of Sciences, and answered related questions.
  Will the locust plagues in Pakistan and India pose a threat to China?
  There are 7 subspecies of migratory locusts in the world, and three common in China: Migratory locusts in East Asia, Migratory locusts in Asia, and Migratory locusts in Tibet. The locusts that occur in Africa should belong to the African desert locust. There is no record in our history that African locusts have caused significant damage to China Hazard record.
  Recent news on the Internet says that there are two sources of locust plagues in India and Pakistan, one is Africa and the other is Iran; Iran may also be two sources, one is the African desert locust and the other is the Mediterranean migratory locust. Judging from the literature and history, there is not much pressure on China. However, further research is needed on changes in climate and environment, as well as on the biological learning of the African desert locust.
  Under what conditions do you think Indian locusts will invade China? Which area is most likely to be invaded?
  At present, it is unlikely that African locusts will directly enter China from India, because the living conditions of locusts are not fully available in China, and China also has a natural geographical barrier.
  However, I don't think it can be taken lightly. Yunnan, China, has recorded the hazards of African desert locusts. Therefore, we must pay close attention to the migration path of Indian locusts and whether there are new local insect sources involved. If they continue to reach the east in Myanmar, this will most likely pose a direct threat to our country and the regions of Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
  Is it possible that a large-scale locust plague will also occur in China?
  Locust plagues are frequent in Chinese history and are extremely harmful. After the founding of New China, the Party Central Committee and the State Council have paid close attention to the problem of locust plagues. Chinese scientists have basically solved the harm of locust plagues in concerted efforts, and no major harm has occurred in decades. Plant protection departments at all levels across the country have also established relatively complete monitoring and control systems, which is a basic guarantee.
  However, the basic condition for disasters caused by migratory locusts is a suitable living and breeding environment. This is the basic guarantee for the population base of insects, and it is easy to erupt when the weather and rain conditions are suitable. Therefore, limiting the existence of locust breeding grounds is the key to avoiding the outbreak of locust plagues, which is also a summary of the experience of locust plague management in China.
  It is worth noting that with the rapid development of rural urbanization, weeds on some land wastelands and delayed environmental management have become overgrown weeds. These have become ideal places for locusts to live. This is the risk of locust disasters in China.
  Why are countries helpless in the face of the sudden locust plague?
  This issue is more complicated. The occurrence of pest disasters is closely related to the biological learning of the pests themselves, as well as the local climate and ecological environment. Migratory pests have a very strong reproductive capacity. Once they occur, the population density of the insects is abnormally high, and hundreds of millions or even billions of migratory hazards are in flight. Their flying ability is extremely high, and their feeding habits are difficult.
At the same time, the adult locusts have a long life span and can survive for more than 100 days. These characteristics bring great difficulties to control. The most efficient way is to strictly manage and block breeding grounds, reduce the population density and avoid disasters.The Document and Information Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences is based on the Chinese Academy of Sciences and faces the whole country. It mainly provides documentary information guarantee, strategic information research services, public information service platform support, and scientific communication and dissemination services for independent scientific and technological innovation in the fields of natural science, cutting-edge cross-science, and high technology. At the same time, it provides information services for scientific research institutions in other areas of the national innovation system through the national scientific and technological literature platform and co-construction and sharing.

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