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India - Desert locust invasion spares a big hit

India has been able to bring swarms of desert locusts under control in two key oilseed producing states and authorities are now trying to assess crop damage.

A number of timely measures and a change in wind direction have prevented a spread and large-scale damage to the rapeseed and cumin seed crops, the officials said. The outbreak began late last year in Gujarat and Rajasthan states.

“The swarms came from Iran and Pakistan, but the situation has been brought under control with the help of pesticides and specialist equipment. Although we’re trying to figure out the extent of damage, I can tell you that there’s no major loss,” said a farm ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules.

Three villages in Gujarat’s Banaskantha district, which shares a border with Pakistan’s desert areas, came under fresh locust attacks this month, Prakash Patel, the top farm official of the district.

In Gujarat, locust attacks in December damaged crops, mainly rapeseed and cumin seed, planted on about 17,000 hectares.

In the neighbouring desert state of Rajasthan, 360,000 hectares came under the attack.

Adult locust swarms can fly up to 150 km (93 miles) a day with the wind and adult insects can consume roughly their own weight in fresh food per day. A very small swarm eats as much in one day as about 35,000 people.

If allowed to breed unchecked in favourable conditions, locusts can form huge swarms that can strip trees and crops over vast areas.

The last major upsurge was in 2007, when heavy rains created favourable breeding conditions for locusts along the India-Pakistan border.

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