UPDATE: THE vanguard of the biggest locust plague to hit Victoria since 1974 has emerged, with about 70 reports of hatchings across the Mallee in the past few days.
Farmers have reported young locusts emerging from their subterranean nests at Werrimull, Carwarp, Irymple, Sea Lake, Manangatang and Ultima.
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Farmers and other landholders continue to report locust activity to the DPI Locust Hotline, with a total of 118 reports of locust eggbeds and hatchings made to the DPI to date.Most of these reports have been made in the Mildura control area over the past week.
Reports from other areas of the state are being monitored at DPI’s State Locust Operations Centre at Knoxfield.
Agronomist Matthew Witney, of Dodgshun Medlin, at Swan Hill, said farmers were concerned about emerging locusts and how they would control the pest.
"Everyone's got their chemicals ready," Mr Witney said.
"But monitoring of locust activity is something they need to get their heads around."
While the DPI locust surveillance map shows a handful of sightings, the DPI yesterday said there were more than 70 reported hatchings in the north west.
The DPI is asking landholders to report hatchings on its locust hotline on 1300 135 559 or through http://new.dpi.vic.gov.au/agriculture/pests-diseases-and-weeds/plague-locustsVictorian Agriculture Minister Joe Helper said the locust hotline began a seven-day-a-week service on Monday.
It was now even more important for farmers and other landholders to prepare to spray, as the optimal time for spraying is when the hoppers begin to band, often within two weeks of hatching and before they can fly, DPI said in a statement today.
All landholders – including those responsible for public land such as councils and State Government agencies – were responsible for treating locust on their land, it said.
The http://www.locustmap.com.au/ website developed by Mallee researcher Ben Jones has the most extensive record of egg beds, with more than 5500 nests logged across Victoria and southern NSW.
In other developments:
- The Department of Primary Industries opened incident control centres at Knoxfield and Mildura to co-ordinate surveillance and control of locusts. Four hundred specially trained staff have begun shifts at the centres.
- Dairy Australia assured international markets the locust plague would not affect the safety or supply of Australia's dairy products.
- Friends of the Earth warned that spraying organophosphate chemicals, such as fenitrothion, chlorpyrifos and fipronil, near waterways or communities could be toxic to humans.
- Premier John Brumby, who yesterday inspected locust eggs at Red Cliffs, said the losses could top $2 billion if locusts were not sprayed.
Tatura Milk Industries milk supply general manager Stuart Brown did not expect the locusts to have an impact on milk production as farmers would have harvested most of their feed before the pests were due to hatch.
But he said there were concerns about contamination from spraying and warned farmers not to spray fodder if it had already been cut because the spray would not break down.
Mr Helper said aerial and ground spraying of locusts was expected within two weeks.