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‘Heat increases insects’ appetite for grains’

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Increasing temperature escalates pests’ infestations on crops like rice, maize and wheat, which are crucial food and raw materials around the globe.

“With temperatures creeping up as the climate warms, those very hungry caterpillars could get even hungrier and more abundant. Crop losses to pests may grow,” scientists observed in a new study.

Unlike mammals and birds, insects heat up or chill with their environment. As an insect warms, its metabolism speeds up too. The faster it burns energy, the more ravenously it feeds and the sooner it reproduces.

Insects will be “eating more of our lunch,” says Curtis Deutsch of the University of Washington in Seattle.

Based on how heat revs up insect metabolism and reproduction, he and his colleagues estimate that each degree Celsius means an extra 10 to 25 per cent of damage to grains.

Giving further explanation, Deutsch says insects already munch their way through eight per cent of the world’s maize and wheat each year, and damage 14 per cent of rice.

If earth’s average temperature rises just two degrees above pre-industrial levels, Deutsch claims, annual crop losses could reach about 10 per cent for maize, 12 per cent for wheat and 17 per cent for rice. That’s a total loss of about 213 million tonnes for the three grains combined.

The foregoing, Nigerian scientists confirm, accounts for maize farm devastation by fall armyworms in the country in the last couples of years.

Executive director of the National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), Dr. Sunday Aladele, urged the Federal Government to take proactive measures against deforestation, saying it was contributing to global warming, irregular rainfall patterns and food losses.


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