Producers encouraged to scout, treat fields for grasshoppers

Source: The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation

Summer’s here and agricultural producers in the Southern Great Plains should expect grasshoppers insect to play their usual rogue role. Without a cold winter or cool spring, much of the grasshopper population has lived through the early stages of its life cycle. Agricultural experts at The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation say pastures and fields are likely to be bustling with young grasshoppers, called nymphs, that are ready to do damage.

Grasshoppers gather on an oak tree on a Southern Oklahoma ranch during the 2011 drought. Weather conditions this spring have created an ideal environment for grasshoppers. Noble Foundation consultants are encouraging producers to check their fields now and take action as needed.

“Grasshoppers can quickly devastate a field,” said David Annis, soils and crops consultant at the Noble Foundation. “Grass and forage producers need to be aware that this will be a potential problem this season.”

Nymphs favor warm and dry conditions like the climates found in Oklahoma and Texas during the spring and summer. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center, the Southern Great Plains can expect a 40 percent chance of warmer and most likely drier conditions in the next three months.

Grasshoppers and nymphs share their main source of energy – forages – with ruminant animals such as cattle, meaning they are likely to populate grass pastures and hay fields. Having grasshoppers or nymphs present in fields creates competition with cattle, and these insects have the upper hand. Thirty pounds of grasshoppers can consume as much forage in a day as a 600-pound steer.

The economic threshold for grasshoppers is 7 to 10 insects in a square yard. If an infestation is not handled properly, or in time, grasshoppers can devastate forage production. “Their presence, coupled with the ramifications from drought conditions and warmer temperatures this year, can greatly decrease a producer’s ability to effectively utilize pastures for grazing,” Annis said. “Now is the time for producers to scout pastures and discuss potential treatment options with their local agricultural professional. It would also be good to work with neighbors when treating for grasshoppers. This joint effort will lengthen the life and effectiveness of treatments.”