In what is being termed as the biggest locust swarm attack in over two decades, several parts of North Gujarat have seen crops like castor, cumin and mustard take a major hit.
According to farmers in the North Gujarat region, Banaskantha has seen the highest impact of the migratory insect's swarm attack with 25-30 per cent of standing crop being destroyed. However, official estimates of impact are still awaited.
However, a report by PTI said that central government has send 11 teams to Gujarat to deal with tackle locusts.
"Castor, cumin and mustard have seen the highest impact, being the major crops in North Gujarat. Of these, Banaskantha district has seen most impact due to its proximity to Rajasthan's desert region from where the locusts have entered Gujarat," said Kurabhai Choudhary, member - animal husbandry, Bharat Kisan Sangh (BKS).
Unlike in early 90s when a similar swarm attack was largely restricted to certain areas in Kutch district and nearby parts of the state, the recent attack has been unprecedented, say sources. "The attack has been on for almost a month now and remedial measures taken by farmers and state government have not been enough," said Choudhary.
The swarm of locusts is learnt to have come from Middle East via Pakistan and Rajasthan into Gujarat with Banaskantha district bearing the brunt, along with nearby districts like Sabarkantha and Mehsana. Districts like Sabarkantha, Mehsana and Patan, however, have seen lesser impact.
So far, North Gujarat region, comprising districts of Banaskantha, Patan, Mehsana, Sabarkantha, Aravalli and Gandhinagar, has seen a total rabi crop coverage of 1.1 million hectares with the highest being irrigated wheat crop at 340,100 hectares, according to Directorate of Agriculture data of Government of Gujarat.
Earlier this week, Gujarat agriculture minister RC Faldu had said that kharif crops like groundnut, castor and cotton and rabi crops like mustard, cumin and wheat had been impacted. "The insect has come from the direction of Oman and due to wind directions it got diverted to North Gujarat. We have initiated the spraying of insecticides to help farmers. About 87 villages in Banaskantha have been hit due to the locust attack. We are taking all precautionary measures in the adjoining regions to stop its spread," Faldu had said.
Experts believe that instead of the traditional measures in use like playing loud music, banging steel plates and drums by the locals, better and more effective measures are required.
"North Gujarat is also known for its animal husbandry. Hence, spraying of pesticides on locusts during the day might not be enough. While locusts feed on crops during the day, at night they rest in nearby dry areas. Hence, pesticides can be sprayed effectively in the night to avoid crop and livestock damage," said V T Patel, director - extension at Sardarkrushinagar Dantiwada Agricultural University (SDAU).
However, the trajectory of the swarm is unpredictable given that locusts follow wind direction. Hence, sources estimate the attack could spread to either central or western Gujarat or move east to Madhya Pradesh.
Meanwhile, despite witnessing presence of locusts, the Kutch district has seen little to no damage to the crop.
International crop research institute for semi-arid tropics has stated today that, "The invasive pest should be managed by following the SOP recommended by the Food and Agriculture Organisation. Quality of pesticide formulations are however important."