THE Agriculture Department finished spraying about 900,000ha of land in the Wheatbelt last week to p

06 Dec, 2006 08:45 PM
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Agriculture Minister Kim Chance praised the State Government¹s $11 million locust control program.

He said although it was a success, more work was needed to restrict damage to farm land that had already been devastated by this season¹s drought.

The Agriculture Department¹s intensive control program was completed in seven weeks and involved more than 300 staff at its peak.

Since September the department sprayed around 450,000ha of WA¹s Agricultural region while farmers and landholders carried out spraying on a similar-sized area on their own properties.

More than 4500 properties were surveyed to determine the priority areas for spraying, and resulted in spraying on nearly 1000 properties across 32 shires.

Mr Chance said the control program had moved into its monitoring phase to predict the residual locust population over the summer months and into next autumn.

He is pleased with the program¹s success, but acknowledged that rural communities still face a number of flying locusts moving into towns over the next month.

³Due to the late rain that has occurred across most of WA, many of the locusts are in good condition and are likely to survive for several weeks,² Mr Chance said.

³In 2000, we had a drier finish to the season, therefore the locusts¹ condition dropped off very quickly and numbers dispersed within a couple of weeks.

³While there are a number of flying locusts remaining, they are not in large swarms and are unlikely to have a major economic impact, but rather be a nuisance within rural towns.²

Mr Chance said the locusts were not expected to reach the metropolitan area in any significant numbers.

³I congratulate the Agriculture Department on the overall success of the locust spraying program,² he said.

Mr Chance said the department would continue monitoring into next year to track the movement of the remaining locusts and assess the potential for a secondary locust outbreak next autumn and spring.

³It is this continued monitoring which allows a well coordinated, proactive response to be planned in years where results indicate potential for a large locust outbreak,² he said.

Kulin Shire deputy chief executive Martin Whitely said the community was grateful for the help it received from the Agriculture Department but was mindful of the extra burden the locust threat had presented to farmers during a difficult season.

³Within the town area most people lost their lawns and gardens, and while spraying homes and gardens certainly helped, it didn¹t eliminate the locusts due to there being such large numbers in the area,² Mr Whitely said.

³Farmers were probably the most disadvantaged in that the season was already a poor one, then there was the added drama and cost of having to control locusts from eating what was left of their crops.

³In previous seasons the Agriculture Department had provided free chemical to farmers to help control locusts, but because of the huge numbers this year they didn¹t issue any chemical so the cost was an addition burden to the farmers.²

Mr Whitley said measures also had to be taken to protect the Kulin Recreation Centre from locust damage by spraying the oval and the synthetic bowling green.

³We had been advised that the synthetic green should survive, but unlike the oval, which would grow back, we weren¹t prepared to take the risk of having to replace the surface, which would have cost anywhere up to $200,000,² Mr Whitely said.

³Then there is also the extra time involved in cleaning up the mess of the dead locusts after spraying has taken place.

³Also, because of the huge numbers of locusts, the shire, farmers and town people all had to install guards on their trucks, machinery and vehicles to prevent locusts from getting into their radiators and overheating the vehicles.²

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