Posts Tagged ‘Locust plague’

Sky News online October 02, 2010

Farmers in Australia are preparing for the worst invasion of locusts for up to 75 years, with fears millions of pounds worth of crops could be destroyed.

In the past few days, aircraft have begun spraying farmland with insecticides to try to slow the march of billions of the insects before they mature and begin to fly.

Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia are all affected, with hundreds of farmers reporting that locust eggs have begun hatching on their land.

A record number were laid in autumn, and the conditions have been perfect for them to thrive, with the country enduring its wettest September on record after years of drought.

The weather is also helping the farmers but their hopes of a best-in-a-decade harvest are now threatened by the locust invasion.

Steve Wahn, the primary industries minister in the New South Wales government visited a site near Bourke this week to see for himself the tiny insects which are infesting fields.

He calls it “a plague of biblical proportions”.

“We are seeing survival rates of 80% or more from the locusts, whereas in a normal year you’d only get 20% or so which could survive. This is a huge challenge for us,” he said.

“We’ve got potentially our best crop in a decade but potentially the worst locust plague in 30 years.”

There is now a race against time to spray the insects before they begin to fly.

For the first few weeks of their life the tiny nymphs or “hoppers” are relatively easy to deal with, even though they begin to form huge bands which can travel 100 miles a day.

Aircraft can spray the fields and as the bugs travel through the insecticide they die.

But those which survive will eventually form huge fast moving clouds which can cover a wide area and devour entire crops within days.

Simon Oliver, the state’s deputy plague locust commissioner, says he has been shocked by how rapidly the insects have already increased in number.

“If we don’t get them in the next 10 days we may lose them as this temperature heats up they’ll start to fledge and fly.

“Once they swarm it’s virtually impossible to control them. They’re highly mobile and they’ll move right across the state.”

Farmer Scott Mitchell found signs of infestation in the land where he grazes his sheep.

He and his neighbours have been looking forward to some relief after several years of drought conditions.

“We’ve just come out of one natural disaster and this is just something else we have to put up with,” he said.

Wheat farmers in the area could be hit hard.

“They’re looking at the best crop they’ve had in a long time and they need their crop to get out of financial trouble so if they get down and wreck that it’s going to be probably a bigger disaster than we’ve had in this whole drought really,” Mr Mitchell added.