Thu, Apr 15, 2010 - Page 4 News List

Locust plague hits eastern Australia, ravaging farmland


Swarms of locusts have infested a huge area of eastern Australia roughly the size of Spain after recent floods, ravaging farmland, a top official said yesterday.

Chris Adriaansen, head of the Australian Plague Locust Commission, said the quick-breeding creatures had hit from Longreach in Queensland in the northeast to Melbourne and Adelaide — about 500,000km².

“What we’ve got certainly is a very large and widespread infestation,” he said. “It’s simply a reflection of the fact that we’ve had widespread rain across that entire area.”

Adriaansen said some swarms covered areas as large as 300 km², and with about 10 locusts per square meter, “that’s a lot of locusts.”

Local media said the insects had already wiped out thousands of hectares of crops and were also damaging grazing areas and gardens in the key agricultural area.

“One farmer has about 400 hectares which will have to be resown,” agronomist Graham Falconer in the town of Forbes told public broadcaster ABC. “The locusts are doing considerable damage.”

Adriaansen said the insects — which had destroyed some early planned cereal crops but mostly fed on pasture — were set to multiply in coming months as their offspring hatch.

Swarms are expected in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, areas which last month were flooded after heavy rains broke almost a decade of drought.

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