Chinese duck trains are waiting to be deployed to neighboring Pakistan to fight a swarm of herbivorous pests that threaten regional food security.
According to Lu Lizhi, a senior researcher at the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, at least 100,000 ducks are expected to be sent to Pakistan in the second half of this year to combat the outbreak of a desert grasshopper. The ducks are "biological weapons" and can be more effective than a pesticide, said Lu, who is leading the project with a university in Pakistan.
"A duck can eat more than 200 grasshoppers a day," Lu said in a phone interview Thursday, citing the results of experiments to test the ducks' search and predatory skills.
A trial will begin later this year in China's western Xinjiang region before the ducks are sent to Pakistan, Lu said.
Flocks of desert grasshoppers have spread to countries from East Africa to South Asia, destroying harvests and pastures at an insatiable rate. The pest plague, along with unusual rain and a scourge of inferior seeds, has hit important harvests in Pakistan's largest production regions and has burdened the already fragile economy. And it also emigrated to India.
For China, which shares a land border with Pakistan and India, it will be crucial to prevent an invasion. However, China has a shield in the shape of the Himalayas, which serves as a barrier between the Indian subcontinent and the plateau of Tibet.
A group of Chinese agricultural experts visited Pakistan this week to control grasshopper outbreaks as the plague moves east. This is the result of a report published on the website of the Chinese Consulate General in Karachi.
In other unusual tactics, the Pakistani government asked its citizens to eat grasshoppers as well. According to a local newspaper report, people should take advantage of the situation and grill grasshoppers or make a curry.
To assess how severe a grasshopper attack can be, look to Africa. The cost of fighting desert grasshoppers in the east of the continent has doubled to $ 128 million, affecting more countries every day, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization. The situation in the Horn of Africa remains extremely alarming, while there has been significant swarming in the Arabian Peninsula, which reached both sides of the Persian Gulf, the FAO said in its latest report on grasshopper observations.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)