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Surviving the Planet X Tribulation

Author Topic: Plagues  (Read 1303 times)

Ed Douglas

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« on: April 23, 2010, 12:07:31 PM »
Locusts have wiped out thousands of hectares of crops in central-west NSW and are being reported in parts of northern Victoria. The pest insects are estimated to have decimated about 10,000 hectares of wheat and barley in the Forbes district, and early sown crops around Parkes have also been destroyed. "One farmer has about 400 hectares which will have to be resown," Forbes agronomist Graham Falconer said. "The locusts are doing considerable damage." There are fears NSW could be facing its worst locust plague since 2004, after recent rains triggered a surge in locust activity. A senior ranger with the Riverina Livestock Health and Pest Authority, Peter O'Shannassy, says the insects are now starting to lay eggs in crops, meaning this could be a much bigger problem than previous plagues. "As a build-up, I'd say this one has far greater potential than we had a few years ago," he said. "This is early days yet, it's still autumn. Anything that lays eggs now will emerge in the spring, especially as the season continues nicely for us, it will also be a nice season for the locusts, and so their numbers will increase." He says there has been extensive crop damage near Swan Hill, Moulamein, Urana, Rand and Narrandera. "Anybody that was able to get a crop in early on a good storm and had soil moisture, put crops in, a lot of fodder crops went in and I'm afraid the livestock are not going to get to graze those, the locusts seem to be doing a pretty good job of that," he said. Mr Falconer says the pest is mainly targeting early sown wheat and barley. "The locusts don't seem to like the oats as much," he said. "Some of the crops have been wiped out. Usually they can tolerate one nipping off by locusts and still recover. "But if the crops get hit twice they won't regrow at all."

Mr Falconer is also predicting there will be a major problem with locusts this spring. "There's been a lot of direct drilling done and it doesn't kill the egg beds," he said. "In the old days cultivation would have destroyed the egg beds. "Now it's going to be very difficult to find new hatchings in the spring in those areas which have been direct drilled." It is a major blow for cash-strapped farmers who have been forced to resow their crops. "We've had a difficult time with the drought and this is the first good early break we've had in at least 10 years," Mr Falconer said. "Farmers were looking forward to getting some early sown crops in, particularly for grazing. "A lot of those crops have been badly damaged by locusts and some will not come back." Parkes agronomist Peter Yelland says some grain growers are now considering delaying planting. "Most guys are looking to start sowing canola for example in the next two weeks," he said. "I guess it's fear of the unknown because we haven't been faced with the plague locusts for early sown canola crops. "When you're talking of seed [which costs] between $10 and $25 a kilo, it's a risk growers aren't willing to take." Large locust swarms are also being reported in parts of northern Victoria. Some of the worst spot areas are around Mildura and along the Murray River near Kerang, Swan Hill and Echuca. Victoria's plague locust commissioner, Gordon Berg, says there has been considerable crop damage. "Now we're getting farmer reports coming in of egg laying occurring in Victoria and that's a concern to us because the eggs will remain in the soil over winter and hatch in spring," he said. Mr Berg also said the swarms were also becoming a nuisance for motorists. "They're just getting enormous numbers hitting their windscreens and it's affecting their visibility quite rapidly," he said. "So people are having to carrying extra soapy water and things to clean their windscreens but they're also suffering them clogging up radiator grills and things like that."


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