Locust attack tracker: With India battling the worst desert locust outbreak in three decades, the insects have now damaged crops in five states — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra — with the Centre issuing a warning to 12 states.
With locusts devastating crops in Uttar Pradesh’s Sonbhadhra, states that share border with the district — Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand — are also on high alert. Besides, Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj, which is located in eastern part of the state, is also preparing for a possible attack from the migratory pests after they wrecked havoc on farms in Jhansi.
Down in the south, farmers are keeping a vigil in Bidar, Karnataka, as the desert locusts are expected to arrive through western Maharashtra. Moreover, the locust menace also hit Andhra Pradesh on Thursday. In Tamil Nadu too, swarms of a locust species attacked banana, rubber and other crops in some districts.
These locusts started arriving in Rajasthan around the first fortnight of April, much ahead of the normal July-October normal. So far, the locusts have attacked predominately at Dausa in Rajasthan, Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh and Chattarpur district of Madhya Pradesh.
The United Nations’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) desert locust information center has said several successive waves of invasions could be expected until July in Rajasthan, with eastward surges across northern India as far as Bihar and Orissa followed by westward movements and a return to Rajasthan on the changing winds associated with the monsoon.
With desert locusts already arriving in Jhansi, the Prayagraj district administration has started preparing for a possible attack. “The swarm of the locust is expected to spoil the crops and trees of the region to a great extent. In the wake of possible locust attack in the city, we have tested the machines and now we are prepared to deal with it,” ANI quoted Ajay Kumar Sharma, member of the team fighting against the locust attack, as saying.
Meanwhile, in Jhansi district, where locusts had invaded thrice in the past one week, an agriculture department official told PTI that rigorous spraying of insecticides helped the administration in containing the threat as the swarms had scattered to other areas.
“They have now moved to the neighbouring areas of Madhya Pradesh and going by the wind direction, it is less likely they would enter Jhansi district. Because of moisture in the air and wind speed, the swarm could further scatter from Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh to Lalitpur in Uttar Pradesh. A swarm of 1.5 km was in Rajasthan’s Alwar and it can move towards Bhangarh, Tonk, Sawai Madhopur,” the official said.
Farmers in villages along the Maharashtra-Gujarat border have been asked to step up vigil, especially at night, on their fields for a potential attack of locust swarms. Desert locusts, which feed on vegetation, recently invaded Chikhaldara, Morshi, Warud, Katol, and Ramtek areas in the Vidarbha region.
State Agriculture Minister Dadasaheb Bhuse said a swarm of locusts had entered the Amravati district from Madhya Pradesh on May 24, but the agriculture department and farmers managed to initiate quick measures to destroy them.
As per the latest update, locusts can now enter the areas adjacent to the Gujarat border, like Palghar, from the neighbouring state.
Swarms of a locust species attacked banana, rubber and other crops in parts of plantation-dominated districts such as Nilgiris of Tamil Nadu, causing concern among farmers. Farmers in Poovankodu and Viyanur in Kanyakumari district bordering Kerala also claimed that locusts had affected the banana and rubber crops, PTI reported.
However, the state government on Saturday said these were native grasshoppers and not the desert locusts.
It advised the farmers to use bio insecticide like neemseed oil to protect agriculture and horticulture crops. An expert committee from the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University undertook an inspection in Nilgiris and Krishnagiri districts and found that the species which affected the crops in the districts in the Western Ghats region were local grasshoppers.
However, as a precaution, the collectors of Theni, Coimbatore, Tiruppur, Erode, Thirupattur, Nilgiris, Kanyakumari and Tenkasi, most of which bordering neighbouring states, have been directed to maintain a vigil and take appropriate preventive measures.
The locust crisis hit Andhra Pradesh on Thursday, with swarms destroying planted crops in Dasappa Road, Rayadurga in Anantapuram district. There are reports that the desert locusts might move towards central coastal Andhra Pradesh from Krishna and West Godavari districts.
A report in The Hindu, quoting an agrometeorologist from the Agriculture Research Station at Rekulakunta in Anantapur, said desert locusts would move towards Krishna and West Godavari districts after touching the Karimnagar, Jagityal and Nalgonda areas in Telangana going by present indications such as wind direction.
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