Locust attack: Drones mounted with pesticides deployed

Centre deploys drones, tractors mounted with pesticides to repulse locust attack

Swarms of locust in the walled city of Jaipur, Rajasthan, Monday, May 25, 2020. More than half of Rajasthan’s 33 districts are affected by invasion by these crop-munching insects. (PTI Photo)

The Centre has deployed drones, tractors and fire brigade vehicles to spray pesticides to repulse the worst-ever locust attack in three decades that has spread across 43 districts of four states devouring leaves, flowers and vegetable farms.

“We have deployed drones to spray pesticides in Chomu in Rajasthan and plan to use them in parts of Madhya Pradesh as well,” K L Gurjar, deputy director, Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine and Storage (PPQS), Agriculture Ministry told DH.

Also read — Karnataka govt prepares for locust attack as crop-eaters march to Maharashtra

He said eight to 10 swarms of immature locusts were active over Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh prompting the Locust Warning Organisation under the PPQS to alert states such as Gujarat, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh about possible incursions.

“We have carried out locust control operations on 47,000 hectares. There are 1,000 live hectares remaining which will be covered in the next few days,” Gurjar said adding that swarms of such a scale were previously witnessed in 1993.

Also Read — Govt steps up locust control operations; drones to be deployed soon

Earlier this week, swarms of locusts descended in Jaipur and the direction of the wind flow had taken them as far as Amravati in Maharashtra. Depending on the wind speed, locusts can cover a distance of 150 km per day and settle down on trees or farms in the evening.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, a single square kilometre of the swarm can contain up to 80 million adults with the capacity to consume the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people.

Locust control operations involve spraying of pesticides on the resting swarms during the night or early mornings and it usually takes four to five days to control a particular swarm.

“Eighty nine fire brigades for pesticide spray, 120 survey vehicles, 47 control vehicles with spray equipment and 810 tractors mounted sprayers have been deployed for effective locust control, as per requirement during different days,” a note from the Agriculture Ministry said.

Usually, locust swarms enter Rajasthan for summer breeding in the month of June/July with the advent of monsoon. However, according to experts, the extended rainfall season led to the incursion of locust swarms.

According to the FAO update on the locust status, new swarms are expected to migrate to the summer breeding areas on either side of the India-Pakistan border. Good rains predicted for the first half of June is expected to aid egg-laying, which has prompted authorities to step up control operations.

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