Punjab put on alert after locus attack in MP, Rajasthan

Punjab put on alert after locusts attack crops in R'than, MP

a resident tries to fend off swarms of locusts from a mango tree in a residential area of Jaipur. (AFP photo)

Punjab has been put on alert after swarms of locusts attacked crops in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, officials said on Wednesday.

Farmers have been asked to keep an eye out for any locust activity, they said.

The locusts initially entered Rajasthan from Pakistan. From Rajasthan, they also entered Madhya Pradesh over the past few days.

"An alert has been issued in whole Punjab (in the wake of locust attack in other states)," Punjab Director Agriculture Sawtantar Kumar Airi said.

Control rooms have been set up in each district and farmers have been asked to report any activity of locusts, he said.

Locusts, popularly known as 'tiddi dal', are known to devour vegetation wherever they settle. In the past, farmers in different parts of the country have faced huge losses due to crop damage caused by swarms of locusts.

District agriculture officers have been asked to purchase chemicals as per their requirements to contain any locust attack, according to the officials.

The state government has sanctioned a sum of Rs 1 crore for containing locust attacks, they said.

A detailed action plan to check the invasion of locust swarms has been prepared by the state agriculture department, the officials said.

As part of the plan, agriculture officers have been asked to maintain strict vigil in their respective areas. Surveys will be conducted, especially in areas bordering Pakistan and Rajasthan.

Spray pumps will also be made available by the agriculture department to villagers to effectively contain any locust attack.

Head of entomology department, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), P K Chhuneja said there has been a massive population build-up of locusts and there is an imminent threat to agriculture and vegetation, particularly in states bordering Pakistan.

The agriculture department and the PAU have been keeping a strict vigil and are carrying out surveillance and checking incursions through suitable means, with information support from the Locust Warning Organisation, he said.

Notably, locusts were spotted in some villages of Punjab's Fazilka and Muktsar districts in January this year but they were effectively contained.

Locusts are short-horned grasshoppers with highly migratory habits and voracious feeding behaviour.

India has not witnessed any full-blown locust cycles after 1962. However, during 1978 and 1993, large-scale upsurges were observed.

Localised locust breeding was controlled in 1998, 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2010. 

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