Locusts in Kazakhstan

Locusts are a recurring problem in Kazakhstan but the problem has been intensified since 1996 mostly due to collapse of uncompetitive farming and unusually warm weather in recent past. In 2000, 27% of total food grain production i.e. 5 million ton was destroyed and more than 8.8 million ha land was affected. The perennial dynamics of locust population has strong relationship with transformation of landuse fabric in the republic from 1954 to 1992 onwards. The landuse distribution of Kazakhstan is dominated by semi desert and deserts (77.2%), and grassland and forests of 9.4%. The grasslands used to serve as ecological niche for the desert locusts confined to smaller pockets from which they used to migrate in adjoining fringe of agricultural lands. But the land development history of Kazakhstan has adversely affected the natural habitats of locusts while passing through 4 different phases since 1954.

i. Active development of virgin and fallow lands (1954-1964).

ii. Use of soil protection system in agriculture (1965-1974).

iii. Intensive use of agrotechnology (1976-1992) and indiscriminate use of pesticides which has caused locust insurgence.

iv. Continuous shrinking of agricultural lands due to economic constraints, giving rise to multistage fallow (1992 onwards).

As a result of this multi-phasic land transformation large portion of arable lands have been infested with wild grasses and bushes. The extent of such lands has largely expanded and redistributed in the contact zones between cultivated and uncultivated lands in the territory forming excellent habitat for DL scattered over large areas especially in the west, south-east and south. Out of 35 species of DL found in Kazakhstan mostly 3 types are dominating namely Asian, Italian and Moroccan. In the east Italian locusts (Calliptamus italicus) dominate, whereas in south-east Asian locusts (Locusta migratoriia) and in south Moroccan locusts (Dociostaurus maroccanus) are prevalent. The situation is getting worse not only in Kazakhstan but also in adjoining countries viz. Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgystan. The locusts are also spreading from their traditional breeding grounds to further west. Many new areas have been reported first time since 80 years.

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