Grasshoppers Wreaking Havoc On Crops & Pastures

Farmers across the area have taken a blow this year; a combination of the devastating drought and a sky-rocketing population of grasshoppers has caused significant losses for producers. 

“I believe that a majority of our farmers and ranchers are dealing with some level of damage from the grasshoppers, ranging from light damage to some pretty severe crop and/or grass loss. Of course, the damage was exacerbated by the drought so it’s hard to determine exactly just how much damage was grasshoppers and how much was drought,” said Tim Fine, MSU Richland County Extension Agent.

This year was a superb year for grasshoppers because dry weather increases the survival of nymphs and adults, and warm autumns allow the pests more time to feed and lay eggs.

Grasshopper outbreaks are usually followed by several years of hot, dry summers and warm falls; these conditions allow grasshopper populations to increase slowly. Weather is found to be the main factor affecting grasshopper population levels. 

Area farmers have seen a stark increase in the number of grasshoppers this growing season. Grasshoppers have plagued several areas of cropland and rangeland. Grasshopper damage to wheat cereal crops can be seen on the areas between the crop and the field boundary. Individual plants will show leaf stripping, head clipping, and kernels that have been fed on or destroyed. 

Grasshoppers also compete heavily with grazing livestock for forage; they feed on the desirable forage, leaving the less desirable plants behind. Their feeding, if coupled with drought conditions, is prone to causing long-term deterioration of the forage plants/rangeland. The pests can reduce the quality of rangeland in the same way as cattle overgrazing. Ranchers can help deter grasshopper damage by properly managing their range through proper stocking rates and using insecticides suitable for their operation.

Cropland takes a heavy hit when grasshopper populations are dense and food plants are scarce. The pests migrate and consume almost any plant they come upon. According to, row crop producers should be aware of the potential for grasshoppers to move into row crops after small grains have started to dry down. The best thing producers can do is to consider spraying to keep the populations down. Both low and high-labeled rates of all insecticides provide control of grasshoppers and prevent economic yield loss.

Fine explained that getting some moisture will help tremendously and will allow crops and grasses to overcome some of the damage for the coming year. He said, “Grasshoppers seem to come and go in waves, some years we have lots of them and some years not many at all. Spring weather can greatly affect grasshopper population so there is no way to predict now what the future will hold.”


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