Farmers in Turkey’s southeast and northwest are concerned about the abundance of insects threatening their crops as the temperatures increase. Over the past few weeks, their fields have been invaded by grasshoppers and loxostege sticticalis, a moth species. Pesticides are the farmers' only option against the small invaders nibbling on crops.
In Yüksekova, a district of the southeastern Turkish province of Hakkari, some villages across a fertile plain suffer from an unprecedented number of grasshoppers taking over the fields. Kadir Dağdeviren, mukhtar of Yoncalı, one of the villages, says there are “too many” pests. “If this trend continues, we cannot cultivate any more crops next year. It is very difficult to stop them once they start breeding,” he told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Saturday. Grasshoppers are particularly devastating for wheat, chickpeas, common vetch and clovers. “Pesticides are used but the problem continues,” he lamented. Currently, four villages are suffering from a grasshopper invasion.
Reşit Itah, a farmer, says it has been two years since grasshoppers started occasionally showing up and damaging their corps. “We need an earlier intervention with pesticides. Once they start breeding, they cover the fields. When the weather gets warmer, they are everywhere, in hordes,” he said. Itah told AA that their crop turnover almost “halved” due to grasshoppers. “They like it here as the fields are across wetlands,” he added.
Authorities say the grasshoppers are a common local species and that they managed to curb the damage with pesticides.
Ercan Çakmak, a villager, told Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Saturday that they cannot harvest their wheat because of the grasshoppers. “We have been applying pesticides for days but their numbers multiply every day. This was the most fertile season for our crops but they are damaged,” he said. Rıdvan Yiğit, an agricultural engineer, said grasshoppers have been emerging in the region for more than two decades every summer and an early intervention is needed. “Pesticides should be used when they are still larvae, starting from March. For instance, we did it in Dağlıca district in April and managed to curb grasshopper population there,” he said.
In the Thrace (Trakya) region in northwestern Turkey, farmers face the threat of loxostege sticticalis, a moth putting at risk the region’s most famous export: sunflowers. Along vast stretches of yellow-colored fields, insects emerge as the most immediate threat to families earning a livelihood from sunflowers. Slowly but steadily, they eat away the crops, starting from its roots, up to the blossoming seeds. Assisted by crews from Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, farmers spray pesticides on the fields, using drones.
Moths recently appeared in all three provinces of the region, Edirne, Kırklareli and Tekirdağ. Some farmers fight them on their own while others seek outside support. Ali Karaca is among their helpers. Owner of the pesticide producing firm in the southern province of Adana, Karaca is also a drone pilot. On Sunday, he joined the efforts in the village of Bıyıkali in Tekirdağ. “We are working on an area of 2,000 acres. Tractors cannot be used here as all fields are full of crops. So, drones are a more efficient method,” he told DHA. “We have to stamp out the moths, no matter how long it will take. It might take one or two months,” Karaca said. “Crews are coming in from other regions and we hope to wrap up pesticide work in 20 days,” he added.
Kazım Özder, a sunflower producer, says he lost 40% of crops because of the moths. “Pesticides worked for us and almost 90% of moths died,” he says.
Ahmet Niyazi Akçalık, another producer in Tekirdağ’s Hayrabolu district, says they only apply pesticides at night so as not to harm the bees in the area. “Besides, pesticides work better at night as moths move faster due to cool weather,” he said. “Bees do not fly at night so we don’t leave permanent chemical traces in the honey they produce,” he added. Akçalık says moths breed and spread at a very fast pace. “They can destroy a 10-acre field in just six hours,” he says.