Locust swarms now in east of Maharashtra, attack farms in Gondia

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Published on Jun 14, 2020 11:40 PM IST
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By, Mumbai

The locust attack in eastern Maharashtra spread to Gondia district over the weekend.

After pesticide spraying operations were carried out at Mohadi village in Nagpur’s Mauda tehsil between Friday and Saturday, the locust swarm split into two, said district officials.

“While a smaller swarm entered the Bhandara district and was located near Salai village in Mohadi tehsil, the other swarm, marginally larger, was located at Tirora village in Gondia district,” said Ravindra Bhosale, divisional joint director agriculture.

The species identified as migratory desert locusts (Locusta migratoria) are rapidly reproducing crop-munching pests that each day feed on food amounting equal to its weight (2 grams), and fly in swarms (of millions) up to 150km daily. A swarm can impact food production by destroying crops and fruit orchards.

Between Saturday night and Sunday morning, spraying operations by the fire department and local authorities further pushed both swarms eastwards towards Madhya Pradesh, added Bhosale.

“On Sunday, the smaller swarm in Bhandara had entered MP, while 70% of the larger swarm was killed in overnight insecticide spraying. The remnant of the swarm in Gondia district is now located closer to Pujaritola dam near Bagh river,” said Bhosale, adding that currently, all districts in Vidabrha, excluding Gondia, are locust free. “With the onset of southwest monsoon, we will have to see how intermittent showers impact these pests,” he said.

Along with Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are facing a locust invasion since May 24, after swarms of short-horned grasshoppers entered the Vidarbha region, attacking fruit-bearing tree leaves across farms and forest patches. During the first attack between May 24 and June 2, 26 villages across Amravati, Wardha and Nagpur were affected, but crop damage was less as the swarms mostly attacked leaves of fruit trees. Between June 3 and 8, owing to a change in the wind direction due to Cyclone Nisarga, locusts were pushed towards Madhya Pradesh, according to the Locust Warning Organisation (LWO), under the Union agriculture ministry.

Last Tuesday, a fresh swarm entered the state and was spotted moving across six of the seven ranges of Pench Tiger Reserve in Nagpur, said forest officers. This is the same swarm that made its way out of Nagpur to Gondia.

“Maharashtra has more or less controlled the invasion through intense spraying operations. However, these pests are known not to be affected by rain, and wet conditions aid their survival across greener patches. We will have to observe their movement in coming days,” said KL Gurjar, deputy director, LWO.

Maharashtra last witnessed a locust invasion in 1993 at Dhule district, LWO said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Badri Chatterjee is an environment correspondent at Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He writes about environment issues - air, water and noise pollution, climate change - weather, wildlife - forests, marine and mangrove conservation

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