Though locust swarms have invaded parts of the neighbouring Maharashtra, the chances of them entering Karnataka are very low, according to Agriculture Minister B.C. Patil.
Mr. Patil, who held a meeting with officials and experts on the precautionary measures to be taken, appealed to farmers not to panic. At a press conference here on Thursday, Mr. Patil pointed out that locust swarms were nearly 450 km away from the State border in Bidar.
Pointing out that they mostly depend on wind to travel, he said the weather forecast had indicated that the wind direction may change towards northeast within a couple of days. This would mean that these insects would not be flying towards Karnataka from Maharashtra, the Minister said.
He said standard operating procedure (SoP) too had been prepared to handle them even if the wind direction did not change. As per the SoP, farmers are supposed to spray neem-based insecticides or chlorpyrifos and lambda-cyhalothrin insecticides. He said the government had made arrangements for fire engines, tractor-operated sprayers, and drones for the effective spray of insecticides to control them.
Listing the precautionary measures being taken by Karnataka, he said the State Agriculture Commissioner was getting information on hourly basis from his Maharashtra counterpart on the movement of locust swarms.
He said district- and State-level teams had been formed to tackle the swarms. The State team had been asked to visit vulnerable districts such as Bidar, Kalaburagi, Yadgir, and Koppal to instil confidence among farmers and create awareness among them about the measures to be taken to contain the swarms if they invade.
Mr. Patil said the government had decided to earmark 25% of funds from the State disaster fund to handle locust menace.
Entomologists feel that effective measures initiated by Maharashtra to control loctus swarms have reduced the threat level for Karnataka.
A.R.V. Kumar, retired entomologist from the University of Agricultural Sciences-Bengaluru who attended a meeting convened by Karnataka government on Thursday, told The Hindu that Maharashtra was more effective in tackling desert locust swarms than other States. “This is basically owing to the effective insecticides used by them well in time,” he said.
According to him, such a measure has reduced the population size of desert locust swarms. Apart from wind direction that is expected to change the course towards the northeast, making these swarms to fly back, Karnataka has another advantage. “The desert locust live for a maximum of two-and-a-half months to five months. The present swarms have already completed three-and-a-half months of their life cycle. Hence their knockdown effect will reduce,” Dr. Kumar said.
These insects, which are known to eat away the entire crop within a short span of time, normally tend to prey upon crops and trees during evening, he said. The locust, which live in solitude, change their behaviour and build up as a swarm and migrate depending upon environmental conditions. Similarly, they go back to their solitary habits. But still it has not been able to ascertain the exact reasons for them going back into solitary habits, he said.