Grasshopper Problem Persists For Producers

Farmers across the region have experienced significant losses due to the sky-rocketing grasshopper population.

"The population levels this summer have met the USDA-APHIS projection and, in some areas, have greatly exceeded it. The late snowstorms and cool and wet weather this spring helped combat grasshoppers early on by 1) delaying their hatching, and 2) allowing the grass to grow and get a head start before the grasshoppers had finished hatching," explained MSU Richland County Extension Agent Marley Manoukian.

Grasshoppers thrive in dry weather conditions; outbreaks are usually followed by several years of hot, dry summers and warm falls; these conditions allow grasshopper populations to increase slowly.

"Grasshoppers are responsible for loss of production as well as loss of profit, whether that be through yield loss or through the high input costs of spraying to control the grasshoppers," said Manoukian.

Many producers have struggled with grasshoppers on their pastureland, as the pests compete 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.

"Grasshoppers may have caused decreased yield or quality in hay, depending on the population levels in that region. Dryland grass hay production may be of lower quality, as the majority of the damage was to the leaves, which are the most nutrient dense part of the plant. Damage in other hay production varies from minimum damage on the leaves to varying degrees of defoliation," said Manoukian.

Thankfully, many hay cuttings were successfully harvested before the grasshopper problem escalated. Other parts of North Dakota and Eastern Montana were not as fortunate.

"McKenzie County hay yields are actually very high this year. Pastureland may be affected some, but because of the plethora of crops around McKenzie County, hoppers are going to choose those over competing with livestock," NDSU McKenzie County Extension Agent Devan Leo.

Grasshoppers and locusts can also wipe out crops and keep them from maturing into an actual, tangible crop. 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.

"Chemical options are available, however, because of the high demand for such products this year, supply was limited," added Manoukian.

Insecticide options include carbaryl such as Sevin, pyrethroids such as Warrior and Mustang Maxx, lambda-cyhalothrin such as Warrior II, and diflubenzuron such Dimilin, among others.

Leo explained, "Many farmers have been applying insecticide since June to control hoppers. They have been very proactive in controlling the problem that could escalate into a disaster. Overall, I am optimistic for our farmers harvesting a yielding crop before the hoppers present any real problems other than an extreme nuisance."

Producers dealing with grasshopper issues, are encouraged to contact local crop-dusting companies to discuss spraying options. Local crop-dusting companies include Sidney Air Service Inc; Mehling Spraying Services, Fairview; Trower Aviation, Scobey; Aero Spraying Service Inc, Williston; and Taylor Ag Services, Inc, Watford City.


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