The massive presence of locusts in recent times is causing considerable damage to crops and livestock in the region of La Serena (Badajoz), an area where unrest and uncertainty have spread among farmers and ranchers, who say they have not never seen anything like it. “It is a biblical plague,” says Juan Carlos Balmaseda, president of the Alanser cooperative, in Cabeza del Buey, one of the most affected areas.
The absolute destruction -and more than 20,000 hectares- has been being carried out for a little over two weeks by the so-called ‘Moroccan lobster’, a species that is dedicated to devouring crops (in this case peas and cereal that are being grown in the currently in the region of La Serena), in addition to any type of plants and even fruit trees, that is, everything that is in its path when meeting. According to experts, he is currently in the so-called ‘solitary stage’, that is, he goes out to eat everything in his path. It is not only that it ends with the sowings, in this case of cereal or olive groves, but it also leaves the cattle without food, although it does not attack the animals directly because it is dedicated to eating everything that has grass and leaves.
The intense spread this year of this plague, already present in previous campaigns although not so widespread, according to Balmaseda, is due to the increase in temperatures that has occurred in recent times, coinciding with the dry period, although It must be taken into account that for the insect to reproduce massively, it needs to find wetlands in the vicinity, as in this case with the La Serena and Zújar reservoirs.
The problem has been detected, above all, in the towns of Cabeza del Buey, Zarza Capilla, Peñalsordo and part of Castuera, “where you go by car along the Golondrina road -specifically- and they crash into the windows and windshield wipers a multitude of them”. As if they were in a horror movie, which at the moment has no solution: “We are completely abandoned in this area of Extremadura, we don’t exist for politicians,” he denounces, “and this is the result of this historical abandonment.”
Thus, it specifies that they have sounded the alarm to the forest agents “but they do nothing because we are in a ZEPA zone and it is not possible to intervene because they say that the locusts must be kept for the steppe birds.” Meanwhile, “they are eating the food of the animals and then they have to feed them, at the price that it is. We ask the Junta de Extremadura to take some solution at once,” adds the also president of the sheep sector of Agrifood Cooperatives of Extremadura. “The only solution is to carry out an aerial treatment due to the great extension that the plague already has, more than 20,000 hectares and on the way to 30,000, we are going about a quarter of the Madrid region, because farmers and ranchers, on foot, on the ground we can no longer do anything”.
The campaign on land, “which would no longer solve anything”, contains two different tasks, prospecting and treatment. During the survey, the field teams locate foci and classify them based on the density of the pest. During the reproductive period of these insects, the stands where the concentrations of lobster appear are indicated, carrying out the spawning and thus facilitating the work of the following year. “But this would no longer provide any solution because everything has been triggered.”
With small planes – he describes – yes, pesticide treatments could be launched to alleviate the situation, “but the Board refuses to deal with environmentally protected areas, a nature reserve, so we do not know how this can end, for now the losses are millionaires because Whole grasses and crops are being eaten, as well as the grasses and even the fruit trees in the orchards. A ruin,” he describes.
In this way, the farmers and ranchers of the region of La Serena ask that the methods that were used and authorized before be used to combat these insects but that were prohibited when a significant number of ecological farms were included in the affected land, which are specially protected. “We are completely defenseless,” criticizes Juan Carlos Balmaseda, who also complains about the lack of commitment and support from the mayors of the affected towns. “So far no one has moved and we only ask that you pay attention to us because the situation is very difficult.” In addition, it is added that it is the second plague that they suffer in recent times because the African sparrows also appeared about a month ago, which are dedicated to eating the grains of the harvest, “but we cannot even touch them because they fine us.”
According to reports from the Ministry of Agriculture itself, the region of La Serena has regularly for decades had the largest concentration of Moroccan lobster in all of Spanish territory, along with that of ‘Los Llanos’ in Cáceres.
According to studies by the Junta de Extremadura itself, the Mediterranean or Moroccan locust (Dociostaurus maroccanus) is an orthoptera that “can cause very serious damage to agriculture, especially when it suffers from the phenomenon known as gregarization, where by moving tens of kilometers “it could devastate crops in places far away from their place of revival”. During the solitary phase it also poses a certain risk, in this local case, for the pastures and crops of the territories where their permanent habitats are located, which in Extremadura are the regions of La Serena and the Llanos de Cáceres, Trujillo and Brozas, assuming some 400,000 potential hectares.
In this way, on May 5, the regional administration published the order establishing the control standards against the Mediterranean lobster for the 2022 campaign. In it, it ensures that they are the owners, both public and private, or the tenants responsible for fighting locusts, although it specifies that the General Directorate of Agriculture and Livestock “could carry out an aerial campaign on those surfaces where the locust reaches levels that make it a potential danger and has not been controlled by land means , following a report from the General Directorate of Sustainability of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Sustainability”.
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