M Zahidul Haque
ENTOMOLOGISTS said that the insects which attacked some house’s yards in Teknaf, Cox’s Bazar is not locust but a locust-like insect, may be a species of the grasshopper family; some opined a Bombay, India origin. However, the damage caused by these insects is no less than those caused by locust swarms. They devoured leaves and twigs of almost all the trees around which include mango tree too. As reported in the media, the Ministry of Agriculture has taken initiative to correctly identify the present insect through constituting a panel of agricultural experts to examining the matter on the field. A monitoring unit has also started working to monitor the locust situation.
Locusts are a collection of tropical grasshopper which has a swarming phase. They can fly from one country to another and causes extensive damage to the vegetation. They can range 3,000 miles in their lifetime. Locusts consume a huge amount of food crops. One ton of locusts, a very small part of a swarm eats as much food in one day as about 10 elephants or 25 camels, or 2500 people. This year, locust swarms have already destroyed huge crops and trees in some African countries. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has called it the worst outbreak in 25 years in Ethiopia and Somalia while in Kenya it’s most devastating in 70 years.
Even if the present infestation is not by locusts, we should still be alert and get fully prepared for encountering possible attack by locust swarms which have already destroyed a large quantity of field crops in India and Pakistan. The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) has already taken some preparation. Meanwhile, the DAE through its field-level extensions personnel should intensify programs to making farmers aware of the possible attack by locusts in Bangladesh and train them strategies to control such infestation.
There are some indigenous methods to combat locust infestation which include the application of garlic and neem spray, dusting leaves with flour, rearing chicken and duck. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) method is also effective against locust attack. In case of an attack on a larger area, aerial spraying of chemical pesticides is needed. Aircraft and drones may be used for this purpose. It is hoped that the Locusts would not attack Bangladesh, if attacks, it would be controlled through employing effective measures for which Bangladesh need to get ready now!
(The author is a Professor in the Department of Agricultural Extension and Information System at Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, Dhaka)
M Zahidul Haque