Pakistan

Locust swarms major threat to crops in southern districts

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LAKKI MARWAT: The locust swarms have become a major threat to crops and vegetables in southern parts of the province as the flying insects have been causing great damage to agriculture since the start of current year.

In February, the southern districts including Lakki Marwat, Dera Ismail Khan and Tank came under locust attack, prompting the government to declare emergency and launch an operation to save wheat, gram and other crops from the pests.

Some union councils in Lakki Marwat including Behramkhel, Titterkhel, Darra Pezu, Ahmadkhel and Darra Tang were badly affected by the locust attack.

The locust swarms could have caused a major damage to standing wheat and gram crops had the district administration and agriculture department not acted promptly. In Lakki Marwat, local residents alerted the administration when they saw movement of locusts in their respective localities.

The administration heeded to the warnings by farmers and formed different committees to conduct field activities and monitor the entire process of eliminating insects through manual and mechanical spray.

It had also formed an emergency response cell and control room as part of preventive measures to stop locust infestation in the district. Similar actions and promptness were witnessed in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts.

“After hectic efforts agriculture department with support of district administration and other stakeholders saved the farmlands from locust attack during the months of February and March,” claimed district director of agriculture Abdul Qayyum.

He said that the insects stayed for a couple of days in the district before being eliminated by agriculture department. “The department’s field staff and experts successfully eliminated locust by conducting pesticide spray in the affected areas till mid March,” he added.

The official said that pesticides spray helped to thwart the attack of locusts in Lakki Marwat and other southern districts. But Lakki Marwat faced a fresh attack of locust in April.

The insects were seen in large number in the rural areas from where they were completely eliminated through pesticides spray during February and March. The fresh attack by locusts panicked the farmers and they called for taking preventive measures to save their agricultural lands.

“The locusts are posing a serious threat to vegetable and melon fields, orchards and green trees,” said a farmer. He expressed surprise over the resurgence of insects and said that adult locusts could cause agricultural damage if authorities concerned did not implement preventive measures immediately.

The farmers also questioned the claims of authorities concerned to have eliminated locust swarms at the beginning of current year. “If the claims are true then how did locusts reappear in parts of the district,” they questioned.

The experts of agriculture department, however, argued that getting good yield of wheat and gram by farmers despite locust attack in February was due to the efforts by field workers, agriculture department and district administration.

About the resurgence of pests, the district director of agriculture department said locusts laid eggs during their few days stay in the district in February. He said that nymphs came out of eggs and emerged as adult locusts in April, prompting all stakeholders to restart operation to destroy them.

“The teams of agriculture department with support of district administration and army continued anti-locust operation during lockdown period, fasting month and Eid days,” he said.

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