Locust outbreak could threaten crops

Posted by Isobel Drake on 13th August 2008

Victorian Agriculture Minister Joe Helper has indicated Victoria’s crops and pastures could be under threat with the possibility that plague locust eggs will begin hatching during spring in Northern Victoria.

“The Brumby Government is taking action now to work with landholders on what has the potential to be a serious plague,” Mr Helper reported. “The combined risk of hatchings in Victoria and adult locusts travelling south from New South Wales or Queensland means Victorians need to be aware of the threat. Egg-bearing locusts have been recorded throughout an area of approximately 1.24 million hectares (ha) in Northern Victoria, particularly in the irrigation region north of Shepparton during autumn this year.

“The full extent of egg laying is unclear at this point, however it is vital that we prepare for all possible situations,” he added.

Mr Helper advised that the locusts were capable of causing significant damage to crops and other green vegetation in a matter of hours. “The Brumby Government will work closely with the Australian Plague Locust Commission (APLC) and the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries to ensure an efficient response to locusts is implemented,” he said. “We are committed to keeping the community informed and we will actively liaise with regional councils and keep them informed with regular briefings.”

Mr Helper indicated the best results would be achieved with a timely response and a coordinated approach between the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and landholders.

“To combat the threat of a locust outbreak, a DPI Locust Planning Team has been formed to plan ahead and monitor any possible outbreaks,” he said. “Experts will be on hand to provide landholders with advice on how to deal with the threat of locusts including how and when to spray and which chemicals are available to control this pest.”

“All Victorians are encouraged to be vigilant in reporting any sightings of locusts to the DPI so we can monitor locust populations and movement and the Department can provide advice on how to control them,” Mr Helper concluded.

DPI’s Australian Plague Locust Commissioner, Dr Andrew Tomkins said it was important to control locusts early in the season to minimise potential damage to crops and pastures. “Locusts are easiest to control during their early stages as hoppers when they are unable to fly. Once they become adults, control measures become much more difficult and expensive,” Dr Tomkins said. “Landholders will be able to control them at the early stage by using one of the several chemicals registered for use in the specific control of locusts.

Further locust information is available on the DPI website or from the Customer Service Centre on 136 186.