Climate Change

Locust fears haunt Bihar’s farmers, experts downplay potential threat

There is a likely threat, but the possibility of locusts reaching the state are very less, say experts

 
By Mohd Imran Khan
Published: Wednesday 27 May 2020
In a scenario where locusts manage to reach Bihar, they may not survive for long, said an expert Photo: Niv Singer / Flickr

A fear has crept up in Bihar’s agriculture community that locusts — after reaching Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh — may enter the state and damage crops.

Agricultural scientists in Bihar have not ruled out the threat of locusts in the state.

There is a likely threat of a locust attack, but the possibility is low, according to SN Roy, head of the entomology department at Bihar Agriculture University, Sabour, Bhagalpur.

There were no reported locust attacks in the state in recent years.

“I do remember that locust attacks were common in the state roughly four to five decades ago. There were no reports of locusts in Bihar in recent years,” Roy said. “Reports of locust attacks in other states in the past few days has increased fear among farmers as well as agriculture department officials,” he added.

In a scenario where locusts manage to reach Bihar, they may not survive for long as they will breed less due to increasing humidity, according to Roy. “If locusts reach Bihar, they will be weak,” he said.

There is no serious threat of a locust attack in the state, said AK Mishra, an entomologist at Rajendra Prasad Central Agriculture University, Pusa, Samastipur.

The state’s farmers, however, are concerned about potential locust attacks on their crops.

Trilok Das, one such farmer from Madhepura district, owns nearly 10 acres land and cultivates maize twice a year. “This is a matter of concern for me because my standing maize crop may become their (locusts) target,” he told Down To Earth. “I fail to understand what to do to protect my crop from such attacks,” he added.

Das, who is in his late 30s, said he had not heard about locust attacks for nearly two and a half decades. “But if locusts can enter Uttar Pradesh, they may reach Bihar and threaten agriculture here,” he said.

Sumesh Kumar Singh, the owner of three mango orchards in Bhagalpur district, is also concerned over a potential locust attack.

“Most mango orchard owners, including me, fear any potential attack by locusts,” he said.

Similarly, Manoj Kushwaha, who has grown vegetables in Vaishali district for the past decade, said he already faced several problems because the nationwide lockdown. “A locust attack will make the situation tougher for me,” he said.

The state government is serious about any potential locust attacks in the state, according to Dinesh Prasad, joint director of plant protection in Bihar’s agriculture department.

“In Bihar, locusts can damage standing maize crops, mango, litchi and vegetables,” Prasad said.

Bihar Agriculture Minister Prem Kumar said he will soon issue an advisory over any potential locust attacks. “We have appealed to farmers to inform department officials if they spot any locusts in their area to immediately take measures,” he said.

There are, so far, no reports of a locust sighting in the state.

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