Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh employ drones to kill locusts
Swarms of desert locusts have affected around 50 districts in the country and drones are now being used in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to spray chemicals for killing the pest.
According to global forecast by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), in addition to the current outbreak, locust swarms from new areas can also enter the Indian border from June 22.
KL Gurjar, deputy collector, Locust Warning Office, said some adult groups and swarms were expected to arrive in the country from the spring breeding areas. “Vigilance will have to be maintained towards the expected invasion of locusts in coming days,” he said.
On Wednesday, the swarms from Dausa in Rajasthan, where 22 districts are affected, reached Agra in Uttar Pradesh. In fact, UP is getting locust swarms from two directions: in east from Rajasthan and in south from Madhya Pradesh.
According to officials in UP and Madhya Pradesh, at least 10 districts in each of these states have seen locust attacks in the past week or so.
In Madhya Pradesh, swarms of desert locusts have entered mainly from two areas - Neemuch in the Malwa region and Sheopur in the Gwalior-Chambal region - both close to the Rajasthan border, more than two weeks back. The 10 districts where locusts are active: Gwalior in northern MP, Agar Malwa and Dewas in the Malwa region, Rajgarh, Betul and Hoshangabad in the central region, Sidhi and Satna in the Vindhya region and Damoh in the Bundelkhand region, said Ajeet Kesari, MP’s principal secretary, department of agriculture.
Rajasthan has been under the grip of locust attacks since mid-April, when they came from Baluchistan in Pakistan. Two swarms were present in Jaipur on Tuesday night – one in Samode and the second in Langariyawas gram panchayat.
“There was a massive control operation against the two swarms and we managed to kill almost 70% at both locations,” said BR Kadwa, deputy director of the agriculture department in Jaipur.
The state government used drones to kill locusts in Samode, about 40km north-west of Jaipur. Agriculture commissioner Om Prakash said they plan to hire 30 drones to kill locusts, which has spread to 22 districts of the state. The drones are used to spray chemicals on breeding sites of the locusts.
Gurjar said the agriculture drones are being used to kill the pests and the Centre will provide additional drones to the states to control the spread of the locust in the coming days. “We are increasing the air potential and also our ground teams,” he said.
This year’s outbreak started on April 11 when locust swarms entered Rajasthan from Hindumalkot in Sriganganagar and Babla in Jaisalmer.
“The immature locusts spread to Jaisalmer, Barmer, Ganganagar and parts of Jodhpur until May 1. After that, the swarms began to wander farther, coming as far as Jaipur, which is about 700km from the international border,” said Dr Suwa Lal Jat, joint director (plant protection) of agriculture department, adding that 120 teams for survey and monitoring of movement of locusts have been constituted.
In Maharashtra, the impact of locust could be seen in three districts --- Wardha, Amravati and Nagpur districts, which are very close to Madhya Pradesh. “The invasion started on Monday morning. The most impacted are orange orchards. A 25% loss is being estimated as of now,” said Ravindra Bhosale, divisional joint director agriculture, Nagpur division.
“The swarm is now moving deeper into rural areas of the Nagpur division. At Kalmeshwar taluka on Tuesday, we were informed of damage to vegetable crops across 5-6 hectares, including cabbage, ladyfinger, cauliflower, and kidney beans.”
In Haryana, four districts, Sirsa, Bhiwani, Charkhi Dadri and Rewari have been put on alert after swarms reached the bordering areas in Rajasthan’s Sikar district. “We have put several districts on alert. We have also instructed all the farmers that if they encounter any swarms then they should inform the government so that we can kill them,” Haryana Agriculture Minister Jayaprakash Dalal said.
Gurjar said, “Intensity of swarms of locusts is decreasing by the day as we are able to control them from 30% to 60% every time wherever they settle in the evening, by spraying chemicals over them.”
“We are using tractors, spray pumps and also fire brigade tenders to spray chemicals over the swarms. As per the report that we received from all the affected districts in the evening we were able to control the groups with chemicals varying in degree in different districts from 25% to 45%,” he said.
Unlike other insects, the increase in temperature does not kill locust.
“There is hardly any impact of high temperature in summers on the desert locusts. They just move ahead looking for food,” said Gurjar.
(With input from Anupam Pateriya in Sagar and agencies)