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Agencies prepare for possible plague of locus -

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ELEANOR HALL: The head of the Australian Plague Locust Commission is meeting with agriculture
authorities from New South Wales and Victoria to try to avoid a plague of locusts this spring.

High numbers of locust eggs were laid in southern New South Wales and northern Victoria over autumn
and the nymphs will soon start emerging from the ground.

The head of the Plague Locust Commission, Chris Adriaansen, is in Jerilderie today to work out the
best strategies to avoid a widespread outbreak.

He told Simon Lauder the last outbreak was several years ago.

CHRIS ADRIAANSEN: A marching band of nymphs when they gather in very high densities, you know 7,000
nymphs per square metre, they can certainly mow down an area reasonably quickly.

Those sort of bands can stretch for some fairly extensive lengths, you know hundreds of metres
long, and so they can certainly make a mess of a crop within a reasonably short time frame.

SIMON LAUDER: I understand that the laying of eggs is an indicator of what kind of season is ahead?

CHRIS ADRIAANSEN: Yeah we had some populations particularly down in southern New South Wales, and
also into northern Victoria in late autumn; and those adults are likely to have laid eggs in those
areas, those eggs over winter. And then we can expect hatchings ranging through from the middle of
September in some parts of New South Wales and through October in southern New South Wales and
northern Victoria.

SIMON LAUDER: And what are the indications for locust numbers this season?

CHRIS ADRIAANSEN: The seasonal outlook is, has been reasonable and given the amount of crop that is
in the ground and we've seen ourselves in the last few days, in the southern New South Wales area,
certainly there's the opportunity for a reasonable number of locusts to come out.

Given the concentrations of populations of adults we saw in late autumn, we would expect that there
would be a reasonable egg load there and so that we could expect some reasonable hatchings to
occur.

Our strategy is obviously to find these hatchings as early as possible after they've come out of
the ground and to undertake control measures where appropriate on those early populations, rather
than allowing them to go through the nymphal development stage, grow wings and start to become more
mobile.

SIMON LAUDER: Do you fear it will become a plague?

CHRIS ADRIAANSEN: Well, it's one of the things that we obviously try to avoid, is any opportunities
for plagues. Quite obviously with our early intervention strategy, we try to get on top of major
population problems early rather than awaiting those nymphs becoming adults and therefore moving
into anything that people might refer to as a plague.

SIMON LAUDER: And your meeting with Department of Primary Industry people in Jerilderie today, what
are you planning there?

CHRIS ADRIAANSEN: We're working through the plans; we've already had a number of discussions with
the state departments from both New South Wales and Victoria over the last couple of months.
Putting together overall plans and strategies for the three agencies, New South Wales, Victoria and
the Australian Plague Locust Commission, to deal with this potential problem.

I mean, obviously, the problem may not be as extensive as our forecasts are predicting, we'll know
a bit more as we get more information from surveillance later this month.

But it's better to be prepared and not have to implement the strategy than to not be prepared.

SIMON LAUDER: Under your forecasts, what is the most feared scenario?

CHRIS ADRIAANSEN: Possibly the worst scenario that we can get is that we have a lower level
widespread population across a wide area.

If we've got concentrated areas or bands of the young locusts then, that's a lot easier to get in
and do the spot control, as we need to on those concentrated bands.

If we have a more general widespread population, it becomes quite difficult and the economics are
obviously a little bit questionable, about getting in and doing widespread control over a much
larger area.

The problem with that is that, if you don't do the early intervention strategy then you can end up
with a more substantial adult population later on in the season.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the director of the Australian Plague Locust Commission, Chris Adriaansen,
speaking to Simon Lauder.