Locusts Threaten Vegetable Farms

Updated: 11/12/2010

Vegetable growers are nervously watching for the swarms of Australian Plague Locusts which crossed the Murray River from NSW early in December..

Victorian Vegetable Industry Development Officer Helena Whitman said there had been reports of some damage to lettuce in the Robinvale-Hattah area – a major growing region for lettuce, carrots and herbs – but the locusts had only just started arriving in numbers, so it was too early to tell how much crop damage they would cause.

Ms Whitman said the locusts appeared to be most interested in seedlings and vegetables with soft leaves, such as lettuce.

DPI Victoria issued an alert to growers at Werribee South, advising them that locusts could soon reach their area.

.Locust Swarm
Australian Plague Locust Swarm

The wet end to spring has slowed locust development and swarming behaviour and forced hoppers to seek higher ground such as roadsides and channel banks.

DPI Victoria expect the threat of swarms would remain when warmer, dry conditions resumed.

In April this year, the Lamattina family at Wemen lost more than half a million dollars worth of carrots in one day. Phillip Lamattina said locusts ate about 60 hectares of seedlings.

”You’ve got to see it to believe it,” he said. ”One centre pivot was destroyed completely. We had about 25 million carrots in there. That gives you an idea of how many locusts there are.”

The Lamattinas are one of Australia’s biggest carrot producers. Mr Lamattina said their production would be cut by about 4000 tonnes and this would ”tighten” carrot supply in eastern Australia later this year. ”This is an absolute disaster,” he said.

Sources:   Sandra Godwin – Weekly Times, 8 Dec 2010
DPI Victoria – Locust situation updates
                 Darren Gray – Weekly Times, 22 Apr 2010

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