The insects have spread to 11 districts of the state in the past four days
Agriculture department teams in Bihar are carrying out intensive operations against locust swarms that have spread to 11 of the state’s 38 districts in the past four days.
Locust swarms, that entered Bihar through the Kochas block of Rohtas district on June 25, 2020, have now spread to various south-western, central and northern districts.
These include Bhojpur, Kaimur, Rohtas, Siwan, Gopalganj, West Champaran, Muzaffarpur, Patna, Jehanabad and Arwal, agriculture officials said.
The locusts’ entry into Bihar has put farmers in a state of panic as it is the time of paddy transplantation.
“This has prevented the insects from permanently settling anywhere in the state,” he added.
“Another good thing is that the rainy season is in progress and hence locusts are unable to fly freely in the sky due to moist wings,” Mandal said.
Sunil Kumar Ajay, deputy director of plant protection, Bihar agriculture department, said agriculture department teams were conducting intensive operations against locusts in primarily three regions — Bettiah (West Champaran), Masaurhi (Patna) and Jehanabad districts.
“We are very much on alert and spraying insecticides and chemicals on their swarms to drive them away,” Ajay said.
“Except for three plants — Akwan, Datura and Neem, locusts consume everything and are very destructive. So, we want to drive them out of Bihar somehow or the other,” he added.
Locusts will take only 10 minutes to consume the paddy seedlings, but we will not give them the chance, he said. “Their swarms are not very big. We hope to control them in the next two-three days,” Ajay said.
Authorities in Patna panicked on June 29 when locust swarms attacked some villages in Jehanabad district, a little about 40 kilometres (km) from the capital.
“Our operation continued for the whole night on June 28 after their swarm of around 50,000, was spotted settling on Shisham (Indian rosewood) and palm trees,” Sunil Kumar, district agriculture officer of Jehanabad, said.
Locusts in the sky above Rohtas district. Photo: C K Manoj
“We had to engage three fire tenders for spraying the chemicals on them,” he added. Kumar said the insects left on the morning of June 29.
Villagers said locusts also invaded the Bagaha block in West Champaran district and damaged maize crops, paddy seedlings and sugarcane plants to some extent after which they resorted to traditional methods to create noise and chase them away.
“Locust entered our region but there is no report of major damage so far. We resorted to chemical spraying using fire tenders the moment we saw them settling on mango trees. We last saw them fleeing into Nepal,” West Champaran district agriculture officer Vijay Prakash said.
Agriculture scientists said the locusts’ entry to the state was not yet problematic since paddy transplantation works were in full swing given that the monsoon had arrived on time after more than a decade.
“A large part of farmland in the state is still vacant as paddy transplantation has only just started. Even in places where the paddy transplantation has been completed, greenery is missing in the field. This has proved to be a boon for farmers,” Ajay Kumar, vice-chancellor of Bihar Agriculture University, Sabour, said.
He said the locusts’ entry could have caused huge economic losses to the state had they arrived just a month later when there would have been green fields all over.
Another agriculture expert Kishore Jaiswal said the impact of locust’ arrival would be felt in the next couple of months as this is the breeding season of the insects.
“If appropriate and necessary measures are not taken instantly, this menace may prove disastrous for both kharif and rabi crops and incur huge losses to farmers,” Jaiswal, Munger district convenor of Pragatisheel Krishi Mancha, an agricultural organisation, said.
He wondered as to what the state government had been doing all these weeks to contain their entry despite all the information and funds made available to it.
“Also, for the past one month, a central team had been deployed in Uttar Pradesh. Still, the insects reached Bihar,” Jaiswal said.
This year largely proved disastrous for the farmers in the state. First, unseasonal rains damaged their paddy crops ready to be harvested in the fields and finally their rabi crops too were extensively damaged when rains accompanied with storms, hit the region.
The administration has said erratic weather conditions destroyed farmers’ standing wheat and maize crops and also affected mango and litchi plantations this year.
The agriculture department, which carried out a survey to assess the magnitude of crop damage in the state, said in its March report that untimely rains and hailstorms had damaged more than 33 per cent of crops in 3,84,016.71 hectares (ha) of land.
In February, crops on 31,929 ha of land was damaged in 11 districts of Bihar due to untimely rains and hailstorms, according to the state government report.
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