Locust retains Punjab farmers on tenterhooks

Sanjeev Singh Bariana

Hardeep Dakha, sarpanch of Khanwala village on the Indo-Pakistan border in Fazilka district, is a scared man nowadays. “This year, I have grown cotton on 35 acres. Every evening, I stand with folded hands in front of the village gurdwara, praying that the swarming locusts do not attack my crop yield.”

“Hovering over nearby areas of Rajasthan, the grasshoppers did enter Fazilka district, in early May. A farmer lost all his crop, spread over 10 acres, in Roop Nagar village. Located in our neighbourhood, Bareka village also witnessed a mild attack,” he provides.

Experts say {that a} 1 sq-km swarm has about 40 million locusts. They can eat meals equal to that consumed by round 35,000 individuals at a time. They can fly 150-200 km each day and ravage crops.

State Agriculture Director Sutantar Kumar Airi visited the affected villages. Hundreds of litres of pesticides, mounted on tractors, had been sprayed on the affected bushes. Fire tenders had been commissioned from neighbouring districts.

Locust had been additionally noticed in close by Sivana, Muradwala, Chananwala, Khanpur and Nejeke villages within the district. Fear additionally gripped components of Muktsar districts after studies of a swarm of about 2×2 km in Gharsana block of Sriganganagar district in Rajasthan. These villages — three MLD, four MLD, 7 MLD, 26 AS and 28 AS — are about 150 km from the state border. Earlier, these locust swarms had attacked Guluwala and Pilibanga areas of Hanumangarh district in Rajasthan. Agriculture Department officers say the first locust risk was within the areas of Fazilka, Muktsar and Bathinda districts.

A change within the wind course proved fortuitous for Punjab because the locusts went again in the direction of Rajasthan.

Lachhman Singh (87) of Jandwala, additionally a border village, says, “I have seen at least three attacks by the tiddi dal (locusts) over the decades. We would beat our tin drums and scare the swarm away. This time, however, the spread of locusts is frightening.” He is true as a result of the scale of the swarm reported lately in components of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh was as massive as 15 km x 2 km.

Jagdish Godhara, Assistant Plant Protection Officer on the Central Locust Warning Organisation, Suratgarh, says, “Locust concentration, at the moment, is not near the Punjab border. It is more than 200 km away, near Bikaner. However, the threat continues.”

Secretary, Agriculture, Kahan Singh Pannu says, “The early warning showed that the main threat was in areas of Fazilka, Muktsar and Bathinda districts, which are located close to Rajasthan. We rushed our teams to these areas on May 28 after a warning from the Locust Warning Organisation. The locusts were only 50 km away from the state border near Sangriya (Rajasthan).”

Later, the state arrange 8-10 locust groups in every district. Each district additionally has a separate management room to maintain a watch on the pest motion. Buffer inventory of the pesticide has been stored at Bathinda, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Fazilka and Ferozepur to satisfy emergency wants, if any. The division additionally carried out mock drills at Tharu village in Tarn Taran district and Kandu Khera block in Lambi space of Muktsar district.

The grasshopper has, largely, spared the rabi crop in Punjab. However, it may possibly have an effect on the kharif crop if not managed. Since the rabi season is over, there’s very much less meals accessible. The locusts will begin laying eggs after the onset of monsoon and can have a ‘fresh force’ earlier than the kharif crop matures.

The grasshopper menace has unfold to Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Several successive waves of invasions might be anticipated until July in Rajasthan with eastward surges throughout northern India so far as Bihar and Odisha, adopted by westward actions and a return to Rajasthan on the altering winds related to the monsoon. Swarms are much less prone to attain south India, say specialists.

Locust cycles had been witnessed right here in 1926-31, 1940-46, 1949-55 and 1959-62.

Experts level out that locust swarms had been identified to enter India largely in the course of the monsoon. This time, the invasion in the course of the winter was an aberrant phenomenon. The adaptability to the modified weather conditions additionally signifies that the locust management mechanism wants a relook.

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