The government on Tuesday said the country has developed an indigenous vehicle-mounted ultra-low volume (ULV) sprayer for locust control, and approvals for its commercial launch are underway.
Currently, the sole supplier of vehicle-mounted sprayers is the UK-based Micron Sprayers. The country in February placed an order for import of 60 such sprayers.
Locust is a crop-threatening migratory pest that has entered the country through the India-Pakistan border. The control operations are in full swing to stop this menace.
"The other approvals required for commercial launch are underway. This is a major breakthrough as this will end the dependence of importing a very important equipment of locust control," the agriculture ministry said in a statement.
The ministry got a prototype of the sprayer developed through an Indian manufacturer. Already, its trials have been conducted successfully in Ajmer and Bikaner districts of Rajasthan, it said.
Meanwhile, the government has expedited the supply of imported sprayers for locust control. So far, only 15 sprayers have been received. The supply of the rest of 45 units would be completed within a month''s time, it added.
Emphasising the need of exploring aerial spray for locust control, the ministry said that 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.
For effective control of locust swarms, the government has also issued a standard operating procedure (SoP) for aerial spraying of insecticides by drones, airplanes and helicopters.
Five drone service providers have started work at Barmer, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Nagore and Phalodi (Jodhpur) district of Rajasthan with deployment of 12 drones till date in 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 desert locust," the ministry said.
The UN body Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has appreciated India to be the first country in the world that is using drone for locust control, it added