‘Chance of locust attack in Tamil Nadu remote’


Despite a ‘remote chance’ of a locust swarm attacking the State, Tamil Nadu government officials have planned a five-point strategy to handle the situation, should the menace touch its borders.

Asked about the possibility of the threat to Tamil Nadu, since locust swarms from Africa have crossed Rajasthan and have even touched some parts of Madhya Pradesh, a senior official said the chances were ‘bleak’.

“In India, the locust swarm witnessed presently in States like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, so far never spread beyond Deccan Plateau. Hence, the Department of Agriculture assesses that there is only very remote chances of locust swarm attack in Tamil Nadu,” an officer said.

However, the Department of Agriculture was “continuously monitoring the locust swarm movement through Government of India,” he said, adding: “In case of attack by chance, the Department advocates some strategies for controlling the desert locusts.”

The strategies include spraying environmental-friendly neem-based pesticides, mass ground spray of malathion pesticides using tractor-mounted sprayers and fire engines, spraying bio-pesticide Metarhizium anisopliae. “Birds and poultry birds, which eat locust can be used to control the locust swarms. Mass aerial spraying of pesticides with the permission of government can be done to control the locust swarms effectively,” he said.

Locust is a polyphagous feeder, which attacks in swarms and causes extensive damage to crops. “These locusts can change their DNA according to the prevailing environmental situation. In the seasons of availability of adequate food, the locust multiplies their progeny faster from eggs to nymphs and adults. Due to its ability to change itself continuously to the prevailing environmental conditions, the control of locust becomes difficult,” an official said.

Locusts can assess the location of crops at harvest stage and fly as a swarm in the direction of the wind and cause severe damage to crops. A desert locust swarm of one square kilometre has about 4 crore locusts, which can eat and destroy crops of about 80,500 kg overnight, they said.

The Locust Warning Organisations (LWO), functioning under the Government of India, continuously monitors the locust movement and issues notifications to the areas of locust swarm occurrence. In Rajasthan, 33 districts are affected by locust swarms. “After 26 years, locust swarm attack occurred in May 2019 and continues beyond February 2020, they added.