Thursday 29 October, 2020

Agriculture Ministry mobilises to eradicate Moruga locusts

The Agriculture Ministry has issued a statement assuring Rio Claro residents that steps are being taken to control and, where possible, eradicate swarms of Moruga Locusts that have formed over parts of the community since Monday.

Locusts are pests which pose a threat to vegetation and crops and generally cause a nuisance to residents. Moruga Locusts (Coscineuta virens) are indigenous to Trinidad.

According to the Ministry, this latest surge over Rio Claro is potentially the result of recent disturbances to forest habitats—possibly illegal land clearing—which may have triggered migration nearer to Rio Claro’s residential communities for the first time.

Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat, who has reportedly been on the ground in Rio Claro for weeks, activated the ministry’s locust control team at the Nariva / Mayaro County Office last weekend on reports that hordes of locusts had been spotted near Mora Valley. This team has been strengthened with personnel and equipment from across the country.

Farmers and residents of Rio Claro, Ecclesville and surrounding areas are advised that getting the locusts under control may take longer as a result of the targeted and controlled use of insecticides.

“Propoxur, the main insecticide being used in the locust spraying exercise, degrades rapidly in the environment but it is harmful to insects such as bees. To limit the impact of these toxic chemicals on the wider environment, the ministry has opted, at this time, for ground spraying rather than aerial spraying to control the swarms over Rio Claro,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry has immediately appointed locust Control Officer Shastri Doon to lead a team of ministry fumigators equipped with backpack sprayers on an exercise that is expected to continue through this weekend.

The Ministry further assured the public that the Moruga locusts pose no direct threat to human health.

According to the release, for months, County Officer Florencia Beckles has been coordinating the locust control response in the Southeast with other ministry technocrats who believe Moruga Locust swarms may be evolving in their migration patterns.

 “They are nesting deeper into the forests making it more difficult to eradicate them,” said Minister Rambharat. “But we are intensifying our efforts this nesting season, which is September to November, to control the population and target the egg beds.”

“For one thing, where the locusts once showed heightened activity at roughly seven-year intervals, since 2012, swarms have attacked or threatened leafy vegetation almost annually,” the release said.

The Ministry also noted that environmental factors could be responsible for the infestation. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization warned that large swarms of locusts can form as a result of climate change. That includes changes in temperature as well as torrential rain both of which provide the ideal environment for breeding.

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