'Starling squadrons' to tackle locust plague

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 August, 2007, 12:00am

About 100 counties in Sichuan province are under siege from swarms of locusts descending on rice crops in an average density of 100 per plant, the China News Service reported yesterday.

More than 3,700 sq km of farmland have been affected. The insects have already chewed through 47 sq km of crops.

The province has allocated about 10 million yuan for lamp traps and pesticides to combat the plague.

The locusts are expected to head west and north. Xinjiang is preparing for the influx by setting up artificial nests to attract starlings to catch the locusts.

According to the news report, a flock of 300 birds can protect one hectare of grassland from locusts.

Locust-control expert Lin Jun was quoted by Xinhua as saying that damage to pastureland would fall by 70 per cent if the starling 'squadrons' were successful. This would save 30 million yuan in the first year.

Xinjiang is traditionally one of the regions worst-hit by locusts, with more than 3 million hectares of pasture attacked every year.

There are about 4 million starlings in Xinjiang so far, enough to safeguard 13,300 hectares of pasture, or 20 per cent of the area projected to be hit.