The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development has urged farmers in the Free State, Northern Cape and Western Cape to report any sightings of locust swarms so that these can be prevented from spreading throughout the country.
The department’s call comes after locust swarms were spotted in several districts in the Free State. According to Free State Agriculture, several swarms of locusts had been observed in the southern and southwestern parts of the Free State.
Dr Jack Armour, Free State Agriculture operations manager, said swarms of locusts were capable of inflicting extremely extensive crop damage.
“If a swarm descends on a 30ha of maize under irrigation, they will wipe [out all] sprouting vegetation. The same goes for planted lucerne.”
Armour stressed that although locusts could cause great damage, the situation was not a crisis at the moment. However, he urged farmers to be vigilant and report any sightings, especially sites where locusts were settling at night.
“Then teams can be dispatched to spray them. This is the only way one can control them as you can’t do anything to them when they are moving,” he explained.
The Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, also urged farmers and farmer organisations to alert the department whenever they spotted a swarm of locusts, and to work with the officials on the ground to curb the spread.
“Control measures are currently being implemented to curb the spread of the locusts. The department has also dispatched a team of specialists to the affected provinces to work with the provincial departments of agriculture and rural development officials and our entity, the Agricultural Research Council and farmer organisations,” said Didiza.
According to Gert Greyvenstein, a department official, the good rainfall that had been experienced during the past couple of months had created ideal conditions for the locusts to breed, leading to these higher than average sightings.
Greyvenstein told Farmer’s Weekly that a possible management strategy was to enclose fields with burning tires to scare away the insects. “But that’s basically all farmers can do. It is therefore extremely important that farmers alert department officials as soon as they sight a swarm and provide us with the GPS coordinates of their sightings.”
To report sightings, call Gert Greyvenstein on 082 451 4860, Vuyokazi Mpumlwana on 084 760 8176, or Dr Ikalafeng Kgakatsi on 072 198 9882.