Biggest quelea birds roost destroyed

THE fight against quelea birds has been intensified, with one of the biggest roosts destroyed in Darwendale, Mashonaland West, last Thursday through aerial spraying.

Farmers have planted the largest ever wheat crop on 79 000 hectares and the Government is protecting this first-ever harvest giving self-sufficiency by intensifying the protection against quelea.

Quelea birds flock in millions, and are known as the feathered locusts as a result, with action needed every year as the wheat and traditional-grain harvests reach maturity. The tiny birds are seed eaters, and are too small to hit maize.

Speaking in Darwendale during the aerial spraying, the acting director of the Migratory Pests and Biosecurity Control Department in the Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Ministry, Mr Shingirayi Nyamutukwa, said the aircraft operations were targeting the destruction of all major quelea flocks to save the wheat crop.

“We have started aerial spray operations to contain devastating birds. The aircraft sprays have started here in Darwendale, and in other hotspots,” he said.

His department had made it easy for farmers to report any cases of the birds through WhatsApp groups and Agritex officers. While it is an offence not to report quelea, no farmer hesitates to report as soon as the birds are seen.

The bulk of the country’s wheat is now at the ripening milky stage while over 2 000 hectares of vlei or non-irrigated wheat are being harvested.

Director of crop science in the ministry, Mr Stancilea Tapererwa, said a national average yield of 4,7 tonnes per hectare of wheat would be achieved this year.

“However, this target has to be guarded jealously and we have employed necessary measures including pest control and discouraging zesa and Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) against disconnecting wheat farmers,” he said. A number of farmers across the province, who are perennially worried about quelea, commended the drive to eliminate them. “This is commendable as it saves our yield that is under threat from load shedding,” said Mr Pinncard Magwada, a commercial farmer from Makonde district, who has over 160 hectares under the crop. A Zvimba commercial farmer, Mr Ephraim Pasipanodya, who has over 400 hectares of wheat, said destroying the roosts was long overdue. Herald

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