Agri Business

Locust attack: Kerala agri varsity on high alert for crop protection

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi: June 1 | Updated on June 01, 2020 Published on June 01, 2020

The high population density of the State prevents measures such as aerial sprays using drones to prevent from locust attack as adopted in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh   -  PTI

The devastating incidence of locust attack in north Indian States seems to have facilitated Kerala Agricultural University to take precautionary measures for crop protection.

KAU scientists are on high alert and extended surveillance to the neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to forewarn against any possible locust attack. As a precaution, wind directions are monitored regularly and alerts would be given in public interest, said R Chandrababu, Vice-Chancellor, KAU.

If the locust reaches Kerala, there is every possibility that it will enter the State through Palakkad, which is a predominant agricultural area. Therefore, the crop pest surveillance team of the State Agriculture department has to take regular monitoring and the reports may be forwarded to the university for further processing and prophylactic advisories.

However, the high population density of the State prevents measures such as aerial sprays using drones as adopted in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. But in the open rice fields and coconut plantations in Palakkad, the strategy can be effectively utilised, he said.

It is reported that the locust attack in Central India has been the consequence of a change in wind direction. If the present monsoon low pressure and southwesterly winds continue, there is limited chance for the attacking pest to reach Kerala, he said.

Locust catastrophe in 1954

However, any deviation in the prevailing weather conditions causing the southwest monsoon winds to recede, there is every likelihood that the 1954 incidence of locust catastrophe to repeat in Kerala, he added.

Current meteorological predictions of low pressure and high winds limit the chances for the locust attack to reach Kerala. Moreover, the mission mode interventions to control the pest in the affected States are expected to prevent its further spread down to the southern States. Thus in the present context the chances of locusts that form enormous swarms that spread across regions, devouring crops and leaving serious agricultural damage to reach Kerala is minimum, he said.

In a worst-hit scenario, spraying pesticides of the synthetic Pyrethroid group with low mammalian toxicity such as Deltamethrin, Fenvalerate, Lamdacyhalothrine using drones can be recommended against locust in open rice fields away from human habitats.

Also, mechanised sprayers can be used effectively against the pest. As Azadirachtin in neem is found to have repellent action against the pest, need-based pesticides can also be used, especially in places near human dwellings.

Published on June 01, 2020
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