Worst locust infestation since 2014 in Oman
February 10, 2020 | 9:30 PM
by Times News Service
More than 35 teams teams have been deployed to control the spread of millions of insects in Oman. -Supplied photo

Muscat: In one of the worst locust infestations since 2014, millions of insects have swarmed across hundreds of thousands of hectares of land in Oman.

37 teams have been deployed in Oman to control the spread of the winged insects at South Al Sharqiyah, Al Wusta and Muscat governorates. Experts say that this is worst locust infestation that they are witnessing since 2014.

“In 2014, the Dahirah Governorate experienced an even worse situation where helicopters were pressed into service to spray pesticides and get rid of them,” a senior official of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries said.

The climate and geography in the Sultanate also made it a good breeding ground for locusts to multiply.

“So when the conditions are right, the population can explode very fast. Locusts travel by wind, and they can travel at least 150-200 km a day,” said Nasser Al Shamsi, the Director of Plant Protection Services at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Speaking to the Times of Oman, he said, “A single female locust can lay up to 100 to 300 eggs. “The period of maturity of the larvae inside the eggs is about two weeks, and the problem is that when they hatch, very large numbers of insects are formed. You can imagine the damage thousands of locusts can cause.”

“Locusts were controlled and destroyed within 4,553 hectares, from November 2019 to February 8, 2020,” he added.

“The locust swarms did no damage , to the crops, trees and plants in the Sultanate. In February 2019, locust swarms invaded South Al Sharqiyah and Al Wusta governorates, where the locusts swarmed over Sur, Jalan Bani Bu Hassan and Jalan Bani Bu Ali in South Al Sharqiyah, while they invaded Al Jazer, Al Duqum and Muhut in Al Wusta governorate.”

Since the beginning of February, the ministry’s locust combating and plant protection department, in collaboration with local directorates in these areas, have begun implementing measures to destroy these locust swarms to prevent destruction of valuable crops across the country.

“The sandy soil and green vegetation, when available to the locust swarms, will see them put their eggs in these lands, enabling them to reproduce and stay longer,” he said. “The ministry’s combat teams do spray these swarms with special pesticides for locusts to prevent their spread and reproduction. The best way to face this problem is to combat these swarms by spraying pesticides to prevent their reproductions but if left behind, their numbers will double, and this will cause huge amounts of damage to agricultural crops, trees and plants.”

He added that the South Sharqiyah governorate was the region most affected by the swarms, small numbers of which had also spread to the Dhofar region, as well as the Empty Quarter and the Horn of Africa.

Al Shamsi also explained the various roles assigned to the locust combat teams in the country.

“Some teams survey areas where locust swarms are present, others teams spray pesticides, and some survey and spray the affected areas,” he explained.

“There was quick movement by the teams in cooperation with Muscat Municipality. The areas where locust swarms were present in Muscat Governorate were sprayed after dark and at dawn, because it is difficult to control the spread of the locust during flight.”

“By the efforts of the ministry, the numbers of locusts in Al Sharqiyah South have decreased and the situation is under control,” added Al Shamsi, explaining that the recent cool weather in Oman had brought the locusts here.

“The reasons for locust migration are wind movement, as well as the rains that lead to the availability of suitable moisture to attract the locusts, and the wet sandy soil and green vegetation resulting from depressions and grooves that the Sultanate has experienced recently. There were predictions of wind movement during the month of January from India, Pakistan and Iran in a south-southwest direction that means along the coast of Oman to the Dhofar governorate and Yemen, and from there to Somalia and the Horn of Africa.”

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