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Locust Plague Looms
 ENVIRONMENTAL authorities are closely monitoring the development of a potential locust outbreak in southwest Queensland.

Dr Gardner Murray, special adviser with the federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, said recent rain could activate the hatching of eggs laid by locusts in January.

He said the Australian Plague Locust Commission had been conducting extensive ground and aerial surveys in the area, as well as in northern South Australia and western NSW.

"These surveys have not detected any significant locust activity, but nevertheless a risk remains," Dr Murray said.

"The APLC has developed contingency plans to undertake aerial control, should a significant locust population develop, to reduce any potential threat of locust swarms migrating into agricultural areas in March-April."

Dr Murray said locust populations that built up in the western grazing areas of NSW, Queensland and South Australia areas after good rainfall had the ability to migrate large distances overnight into agricultural areas, causing significant damage.

But the APLC, jointly funded by the federal and NSW, Victorian, South Australian and Queensland governments, was capable of quickly responding to locust "emergencies", he said.

"The APLC is generally recognised as the leading locust control organisation in the world in terms of its achievements over many years in locust control and applied research," Dr Murray said.

A recent study by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics found the body prevented potential losses in agricultural production of $55 million in 2004-05.

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