Locusts dead because of a hailstorm after they attacked fields in Jand in Attock district. — Dawn
Locusts dead because of a hailstorm after they attacked fields in Jand in Attock district. — Dawn

TAXILA: Swarms of locusts attacked crops in various parts of Jand tehsil in Attock district on Thursday after the agriculture department issued an alert to farmers and took various measures to prevent such an attack and to minimise damages.

Department officials said that locusts that swept through Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have now attacked hundreds of acres of wheat crops in Jand.

District focal person Zaffar Iqbal Khan told Dawn that the swarms entered the tehsil from Shadi Khan in Kohat district after moving through the fields in Kohat and D.I. Khan.

He said the insects ate through crops and vegetation in Tandi Jassal, Sagri, Pind Susral and other parts of the district. After the locust attack, farmers have started taking safety measures while the district administration has issued high alert and asked farmers to beat drums and set off fireworks to minimise attacks.

“Farmers from the area were lucky that soon after thelocustslanded, a massive hailstorm with heavy rain hit the area, killing many locusts and limiting their damages in the area so far,” Mr Khan said.

Deputy Director Agriculture Shakeel Ahmed confirmed that locusts had entered the district, but said that teams would leave for the affected areas early on Thursdayto spray them.

He said villagers were taking measures such as making noise to contain the damage.

“As the agriculture department was well-informed and prepared for the threat, we have already alerted villagers, who mounted loudspeakers onto their tractors to add to the noise,” he said.

He added that local farmers are also being informed of precautionary measures they could take to ward off locusts, and surveillance teams are busy handling the situation.

“The agriculture department’s teams have been given the mandate to start spraying in fields to get rid of locusts,” Mr Ahmed said. He added that all resources will be utilised to thwart the threat of locust attacks on crops.

Tahir Mehmood, a field assistant in the department, told Dawn over the phone that the district agriculture department has advised farmers to adopt precautionary measures to protect their crops from locusts.

He said locusts stay on the ground when it rains, so this was the time to eliminate them by spraying. When the sun is shining, locusts fly and become harder to kill, he said. In the case of rain, locusts can stay alive for up to 20 days without eating, he said, adding that locusts stay in trees at night and attack crops at sunrise.

In the first week of September, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation had warned that the locust situation in Pakistan was very serious because a second generation of the insect has been bred. According to its Locust Watch report, there remains a risk of further breeding, causing locust numbers to rise, with the possibility of swarm formation from late September onward.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2020