Israel Sprays Crops Across Negev in Battle Against Locust Plague

Agriculture Ministry spraying pesticides to try and save crops from what it has defined as 'medium-size' swarm; insects covered nearly 2,000 acres of desert overnight.

Israel's Agriculture Ministry employees sprayed pesticides from the air and land to try and kill the locusts plaguing the south of the country in the early morning on Wednesday, before dew on their wings dried and they could take off again.

Numbering more than one million, Israeli farmers have been struggling to prevent crop damage since the locusts started swarming into Israel from Egypt on Monday. The insects covered nearly 2,000 acres of desert overnight, officials said.

Locust clouds have been darkening skies in southern Israel some two weeks before the Jewish Passover holiday that recalls 10 Biblical plagues, one of them locusts, which struck Egypt during the exodus of Israelite slaves.

Miriam Freund, director of plant protection in the Agriculture Ministry, called it a "medium-sized swarm" and her office set up a hotline for farmers to call in case they see it advance.

"We hope our actions are effective," one of the pilots of a plane spraying the fields said on Army Radio. "Let's hope the damage will be minimal."

Locusts, which wreak havoc by eating crops, last invaded southern Israel in 2004, said the pilot, who gave only his first name, Shai.

Potato farmer Pavel Rosenfeld, who lives about 3 km (2 miles) from the Egyptian border, said 30 to 40 percent of his land had already been damaged.

"Everything depends on the wind and we are praying that the wind doesn't bring us more," he said on Army Radio.


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