ISLAMABAD: The Food and Agriculture Orga­nisation (FAO) of the United Nations has said that breeding of desert locusts will continue in Nara and Cholistan, causing their numbers to increase with the possibility of hopper and adult groups forming.

In its new report titled ‘Desert Locust Bulletin’, it said that a second round of breeding could commence in August, leading to the formation of bands and eventually small swarms. Breeding might also extend to Thar­parkar desert with the onset of the monsoon rains, it said.

In early June, spring breeding came to an end in Balochistan with the last report of swarm-laying near Lasbela while hoppers and hopper groups persisted near Lasbela, Turbat and Gwadar and in the northern interior near Dalbandin, and scattered immature and mature adults prevailed in a few places near Lasbela and Turbat.

In summer breeding areas, breeding occurred in Nara desert south of Rohri and in Cholistan near Islamgarh. Hopper groups formed in both areas but mainly in Nara where immature and mature adult groups were also present. Control operations treated 8,684 hectares of which 800 hectares were by air.

The bulletin said that this year’s summer breeding was anticipated to be heavier than normal, resulting in hopper bands and perhaps small swarms along the Indo-Pakistan border where two generations might be possible.

Keeping in view the current desert locust situation in the country, the plant protection dep­artment in collaboration with the provincial governments, district administration and department of agriculture extension, was preparing to establish ‘locust control centres’ at the district level for ensuring a thorough surveillance and targeted control operations, sources in the Ministry of National Food Security and Research said.

Though the plant protection department had sufficient stocks of pesticide for the current control activities, more could be procured in case of large-scale attack of desert locusts, and the department had initiated procurement process for purchase of pesticides, sources said.

It was learned that the plant protection department was seeking financial support from the federal government as well as from the FAO to meet its huge general operating expenditures. The department had been in contact with and sensitising various associations to support the growers in handling the issue where the cultivated areas were at threat.

A ‘locust emergency’ might be declared to seek support of other departments in terms of manpower, vehicles, accommodation and security, the sources in the ministry said.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2019