HYDERABAD: Swarms of locusts are landing on vast fields of cotton and other standing crops in fertile parts of lower Sindh after wreaking havoc in Balochistan as no aerial and ground spray has been carried out yet to exterminate the large insects.

Reports about the locust attack have started coming from Sanghar, Matiari, Jamshoro and Benazirabad. Photos and video clips received from different areas show the insects in fields.

“We have seen the insects in dehs of Hala taluka and seen their swarms flying to Sanghar that is coterminous with Matiari,” said additional director of agriculture extension Matiari Rafiq Rahu while sharing photos of locust attack on fields.

Locusts first landed in Khairpur’s desert area of Nara after flying there from Balochistan. The federal government then identified 30 spots in the area where locusts were still present. According to agriculture extension officials, the insect has not invaded the barrage areas of the district where cotton crop is at harvesting stage. “We are trying to quell them at nymph stage through sprays,” said Mushtaq Soomro, Khairpur’s additional director agriculture extension.

He said that locusts had invaded the district’s desert area after having plagued Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran in a row before ending up in Balochistan.

Aerial spray was done by the department of plant protection in Khairpur. Spots which were identified stretched over 20km area where around 2,600 hectares land was brought under cotton cultivation this year.

Jamshoro’s additional director agriculture Saleem Suhag said that he and Ghulam Qadir Loond of the department of plant protection visited the area but did not find locusts in Manjhand and Jhangara Bajara.

Sindh agriculture department sent a communication to the department of plant protection on Monday, requesting the federal department to form teams for survey and spray of areas.

Locusts invaded cotton fields in Matiari and agriculture officials visited fields after getting reports where they found the insects in the fields and on trees. Banana is also growing in the district.

A cotton grower from Matiari Nadeem Shah said that locusts moved towards Shahdadpur taluka of Sanghar district after locals lit bonfires to disperse the insects.

Sindh’s lower region has vast orchards of banana, mangoes, dates etc and fields of cotton and sugar cane. Agriculture officials fear if the attack was not controlled it would destroy cotton crop and damage banana and sugar cane crop.

Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) and Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA) have drawn federal and Sindh government’s attention to serious threat from locust attack and feared massive damage to crops from the insect.

SAB vice president Mehmood Nawaz Shah contended that it appeared that locust could not be controlled in Khairpur because its first generation had not been exterminated in Balochistan.

“Attack seems to be spreading while cotton crop is fast maturing,” he said and added now the insect’s second generation had landed in Khairpur, Dadu, Nawabshah, Matiari and Sanghar districts.

“I spoke to director general of the plant protection department and he told me that if measures were not taken by Sindh and federal governments it would lead to serious losses.”

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2019

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