People from across the country have been requested to urgently report the visibility of locusts infamous for voraciously feeding on agricultural crops, trees and other plants.
Experts warn these locusts can potentially devastate crops and grasses grown for both people and livestock.
The country is currently suffering from outbreaks of locusts in the Free State, Northern Cape and Western Cape, confirmed the minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, Thoko Didiza in a media statement released earlier today.
Didiza announced that the current strong winds are aggravating the flight and spread of the locusts. Government has already dispatched a team of specialists to the affected provinces to work with officials from the provincial departments of agriculture. Also, the Agricultural Research Council and farmer organisations are involved in curbing the spread.
“I wish to urge farmers and farmer organisations to alert us whenever they spot these locusts and work with our officials on the ground to curb the spread,” said Didiza.
Graham Jacobs, a farmer farming between Hobhouse and Dewetsdorp in the Free State, confirms to Food For Mzansi that he has already experienced a locust outbreak. This was sighted yesterday approximately 50km away from his farm Bestersdam.
He reveals that the implications of a swarm of locust landing on any farm can be disastrous.
“You will have nothing left! No crop, no veld, nothing. In seconds, I am talking about seconds, if it landed in one hour, depending on how big the swarm is, it can wipe out the whole farm. Fodder and veld are our main income, so it is really serious and critical.”
Locusts harmful when they land
Jacobs says he couldn’t sleep last night because he was afraid that the locusts would invade his farm. Fortunately, they didn’t, and by this morning they were flying westwards.
“They are moving more to the western side, but they are also coming from the south. The previous day they were in Gariep Dam. Yesterday we recorded them here, so I don’t know if it is the same swarm or a different one.”
Jacobs has made arrangements with his local control officer to come to his aid should the locusts infest his farm. “They said I must send them a location pin if swarms land on my farm. Once that happens, they will come and do the necessary spraying.”
Dr Jack Armour, operation manager of Free State Agriculture, tells Food For Mzansi there are small, yet worrying incidents of locusts in the Free State. The provinces have not experienced huge incidents of crop damage to date.
Armour explains that the locust are still flying in the Free State, but they will become harmful when they land.
“When they settle, they do cause a lot of damage and the farmers are particularly worried about new maize that is busy growing. But it is only in the south eastern Free State where the fist outbreak took place in Springfontein, in particular, on Monday afternoon.”
How to deal with locust outbreak
Armours reveals that the locusts are now flying towards the Eastern Cape and the Northern Cape provinces. “They seem to be going in the south easterly direction and heading across the border into the Eastern Cape and the Northern Cape from the Free State.
“Last night I send out a message again saying that if there are any incidents, it should be reported to me. But if people do have a local control officer, they should liaise directly with their control officer.”
Armour indicates that they are currently reporting their incidences to Gert Greyvenstein, a locust specialist allocated by the national department of agriculture, land reform and rural development. Together they have formulated an action plan to address the outbreak.
“Our plan of action, and what Gert has now said to us, is that is that they have teams on standby in Colesburg, Noupoort and Middelburg. If we see any locusts, we must follow them. Where they settle that night between six and seven in the evening we must send through photos of where the infestation is.”
Farmers and members of the public should also give an indication of the size of the locusts. “Then also send the GPS coordinates of where they’ve settled for the night, then they can send through a team to come spray them at night where they have settled on the ground. That’s the only way one can control them. When they are moving during the day you can’t do anything about them.”
- Government has requested farmers and members of the public to report the visibility of these swam in their areas to the following departmental officials: Gert Greyvenstein on 082 451 4860, Vuyokazi Mpumlwana on 084 760 8176 and Dr Ikalafeng Kgakatsi on 072 198 9882.