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2010 a big year for 'hoppers'

Jeff Caldwell 08/03/2010 @ 11:00pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Farmers in parts of the U.S. are finding grasshopper populations higher than they've been in the last 3 decades.

High numbers late in 2009 indicate a heavy egg population going into this year, according to a report from Syngenta. After discovering the number of eggs laid, researchers in 17 states agree 2010 is going to go down as a big hopper year. They're now on high alert in states like Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming, where the heaviest outbreaks are expected.

"Grasshoppers in the Western prairie and mountain states look to be setting themselves up for populations of what they call 'Biblical proportions,'" says Syngenta Crop Protection insecticides techincal brand manager Roy Boykin. "Researchers who study these grasshoppers and watch the populations are saying that this may be the largest population that they've seen in 30 years."

While the pests typically start out in pasture and rangeland, it won't be tough for them to migrate into row crops, especially no-till acres. That's because grasshopper eggs normally fare better in untilled soils. That makes soybean farmers most susceptible -- especially in the highest-risk areas -- to hopper damage, Boykin says.

"Assuming that these populations do develop the way the USDA is predicting, it's very likely that these grasshoppers will move into their soybean crops...and if they do move into soybean or any other crops, the populations will be devastating, and the growers need to be prepared to take action," he says.

Use the following scale to determine the economic damage you may be incurring when scouting:

  • Non-economic damage: 5-10 adults/square yard
  • Light damage: 11-20 adults/square yard
  • Threatening damage: 21-40 adults/square yard
  • Severe damage: 41-80 adults/square yard
  • Very severe damage: 80+ adults/square yard

When treating, Boykin says an insecticide like Syngenta's Warrior II is effective on both pasture and crop acres. That product has quick knockdown and residual control. Endigo ZC also provides good hopper control in soybean acres, Boykin adds, also providing good residual control.

"The best thing growers can do is be on the lookout and make early applications to try to keep these grasshoppers under control," he says.

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