South China may be invaded by locusts

Flying destruction: Children trying to drive away desert locusts swarming in the Okara district of eastern Pakistan. — Xinhua

GUANGXI: The invasion of desert locusts that has already thrust millions of Africans into a food security crisis may pose threats to China’s southern regions this summer.

Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, as well as the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, are most likely to be affected, according to Zhang Zehua, a researcher at the Institute of Plant Protection of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

“It is extremely unlikely that desert locusts will directly migrate into China’s inland areas, but if the overseas desert locust plague persists, the probability of locusts entering China in June or July will sharply increase,” Zhang said.

He said the border area between the Tibet autonomous region and the countries of Pakistan, India and Nepal is a desert locust spreading area.

However, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau can function as a shield against the swarms, so there is a slight chance that the locusts could flock into inland areas of China, Zhang said.

He also said he believes that desert locusts won’t immediately pose a threat to agricultural production in China due to the nation’s prevention system.

In January, the locusts arrived in Djibouti and Eritrea and are now spreading to Tanzania and Uganda, threatening the food security and livelihoods of millions of people.

The infestation has been called the worst in decades, with the pests devouring pastures and crops just hours after their arrival at a location, according to the United Nations World Food Programme.

According to the UN, the desert locust is among “the most dangerous migratory pests in the world”.

Zhang warned that the desert locust may pose threats to China’s food security if the species is not well controlled and settles down in inland China for breeding.

“Our current locust prevention and treatment system is capable of controlling the possible invasion to China. But real-time monitoring, sufficient pharmaceuticals and pesticide application equipment as well as trained staff and cross-region coordination by the central government should be placed in advance,” he said. — China Daily/ANN
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