File photo of a swarm of locusts in Rajasthan
File photo of a swarm of locusts in Rajasthan|IANS

Trials of indigenously developed ULV sprayer for locust control successful

NetIndian News Network

New Delhi, June 25, 2020

Trials of an indigenously developed vehicle-mounted ULV sprayer for locust control have been successful, the government has said.

The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers’ Welfare (DAC&FW), under the Make in India initiative, has taken up the challenge to indigenously develop a vehicle-mounted ULV sprayer for locust control, an official press release said.

Leading the initiative, the Mechanization and Technology Division of DAC&FW got a prototype of the sprayer developed through an Indian manufacturer. The trials of the sprayer have been successfully conducted in Ajmer and Bikaner district of Rajasthan.

The other approvals required for commercial launch are underway. This is a major breakthrough as this will end the dependence of importing very important equipment of locust control, it said.

At present, the sole supplier of vehicle-mounted sprayers is Micron Sprayers, UK. Supply order for 60 sprayers was placed on the firm in February 2020. Ministry for External Affairs and Ministry for Commerce and Industry was involved in expediting the supply of this equipment.

High Commission of India, UK was also regularly following up with the firm and monitoring the early supply of the sprayers. Till date, only 15 sprayers have been received. The supply of rest of 45 units would be completed within a month’s time.

However, the ground control vehicles with sprayers used for locust control can spray up to a height of 25-30 feet only. The tractor-mounted sprayers also have a limitation in reaching inaccessible areas and tall trees. Therefore, the necessity of exploring aerial spray option was explored.

During a review, Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar directed that deployment of drones should be explored for Locust control. As the existing policy guidelines issued by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) did not permit the use of drones with a payload of pesticides, DAC&FW requested MoCA for relaxation of the rules.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has granted a conditional exemption to a Government entity, the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine & Storage, Faridabad (DPPQ&S) for drone operations for locust control on May 21. The next day, the Standard Operating Procedure of aerial spraying of insecticides by drones, aeroplanes and helicopters was approved by the Central Insecticides Board for locust control.

Subsequent to the conditional exemption given by MoCA, two firms were empanelled for providing services of drones for the spray of pesticides for Locust control. These firms conducted some trials in Jaipur (Rajasthan) and Shivpuri (Madhya Pradesh).

As a follow up of Review Meeting held at the level of Cabinet Secretary on May 27, a meeting was held by Secretary Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare with Secretary of Ministry of Civil Aviation, representatives of NDMA and Pawan Hans on the same day.

The issue of availability of helicopter/aircraft with air-spray equipment and the strategy for maximizing the deployment of drones for locust control was discussed. An Empowered committee under the Chairmanship of the Additional Secretary, Agriculture, comprising of officers of the MoCA, Pawan Hans, DGCA, Air India and DAC&FW as members was constituted for facilitating the procurement of goods and services for an aerial spray of pesticides through drones, aircraft and helicopter.

Thereafter, on the recommendation of the Empowered Committee work order for engagement of drones to five companies (5 drones each) was issued. All five drone service providers have started work in Barmer, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Nagore and Phalodi (Jodhpur) district of Rajasthan with the deployment of 12 drones till date in a phased manner.

The experience of use of drones has been more than satisfactory in inaccessible areas and for effective control over tall trees. The deployment of drones has added another dimension in the capabilities of Locust Circle offices to ensure effective control over the desert locust.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has appreciated that India is the first country in the world which is controlling Desert Locust through drones, the release added.