A large swarm of desert locusts is underway in parts of Vidarbha, forming a major threat to the orange orchards in the area. Officers of the agriculture department said this will be the first time since the 1990s that the state has reported such an attack.
Since early April, parts of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab have reported sightings of the migratory and highly destructive desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria. This early sighting — the pest is normally sighted along the Indo-Pakistan border in July-October — has alerted the authorities of the dangers that lie ahead in this season. These short-horned grasshoppers are innocuous when solitary, but highly destructive when they in a swarm, and can migrate large distances in a short frame of time.
Being polyphagous (able to feed on different kinds of food) in nature, the pests destroy every single bit of greenery on their way. A square kilometre of an area can accommodate 40 to 80 million of them.
In the absence of any standing crop, the desert locust is feeding on the green cover of the area. At threat are the orange orchards in the area, which have not faced such a crisis in a long time.
Sridhar Thakare, executive director of Mahaorange, which is the orange growers’ cooperative in the area, said it must be after 60 years such attack had been detected. “Control operations are on but if the swarm continues to grow, more than 151,000 hectares of orange orchards could get destroyed,” he said.