India has placed an order of 50 ultra-low volume sprayers with the UK to control the menace of migratory locust, which is looming large this kharif season. On Wednesday, Narendra Singh Tomar, Union Minister for Agriculture, interacted with representatives of the pesticide industry to take stock of preparedness plan of the country to prevent a locust attack in the upcoming days.
Scientists at the Locust Warning Organisation (LWO) had reported sighting of the desert locust from Jaisalmer and Sriganganagar districts of Rajasthan on April 11. Locusts are normally seen in India between July and August. This year, not only did they appear much earlier, but were also seen in swarms rather than in isolation. At present, large swarms are active in East African countries, and have devastated their standing crops of wheat, sorghum, and maize, among others. If left unchecked, the migratory pests can wreak havoc across many districts of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Punjab.
Last year, India had reported the sighting of locusts for the first time in the last 26 years. Between May last year and February this year, about 4.03 lakh hectares were treated from mostly December onwards. Unseasonal rain had propelled the unrestricted growth of the pest in the Arabian Peninsula, and the insects had also come to attack large tracts of land in Pakistan and India. This year, multiple swarms are active in the Horn of Africa, which have already started migrating to other areas.
Commonly used organophosphate pesticides like Malathion (96 per cent ultra-low volume aerial application) is used to control the pest.
Mounted sprayers are used to treat areas of infestation with the chemical. India, at present, has 50 such vehicles and have placed orders of 60 or more such sprayers, which are expected to arrive soon. Till Wednesday, 16,415 hectares of the districts of Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Sriganganagar, Ajmer, Barmer and Pali in Rajasthan, as well as Fazilka in Punjab have been treated for the pest.
Ten Locust Circle Offices of the Government of India, located in Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Phalodi, Barmer, Jalore, Churu, Nagaur, and Suratgarh districts of Rajasthan, as well as Palanpur and Bhuj districts in Gujarat, are working in scheduled desert areas of more than two lakh square km in India. The locusts are monitored, surveyed and controlled in coordination with the concerned state agricultural departments, as well as district administrations. In addition, pest control in crops is being done by the agricultural departments and concerned state governments.