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Grasshoppers out in force in southwest North Dakota, damage apparent in number of fields

Press Photo by April Baumgarten Delbert Kadrmas checks his crops for grasshopper damage south of Belfield Thursday morning. Grasshoppers have eaten the leaves off of some of his crops this year.

Farmers faced many battles when planting crops this year and now they are fighting a late wave of grasshoppers.

"What I have noticed is it's just in spots," said Delbert Kadrmas, a Belfield farmer. "We were out in our alfalfa field cutting our second cutting and some of it was just loaded with it."

Grasshoppers stay in green, vegetative areas when they are young, said North Dakota State University Extension Entomologist Janet Knodel.

Grasshopper eggs are laid in ditches, she said.

They won't start to move into the fields because ditches are lush with vegetation, Knodel said, but they may hit the fields when the smaller grains start to dry. Sunflowers, corn and flax are among those to monitor, she said.

"It seems like what happens is crops ripen up and they move into the crops," Kadrmas said.

Agronomy Manager Damon Reitz of Scranton Equity Exchange has also noticed the increase.

"I know the pressure south of town is extreme," Reitz said. "It is definitely worse than last year. We are starting to notice damage on alfalfa and wheat."

Heavy rain in May and June kept farmers out of the fields until late.

The grasshopper hatch was late this year, too, Reitz said. "I imagine it was because of the cool and wet spring."

Knodel said farmers can prevent grasshoppers from destroying crops by applying insecticide. Farmers should spray fields when they reach the action threshold, meaning there are eight to 14 adults per square yard.

"Farmers need to get out and scout their fields once or twice a week," she said. "As we get closer to harvest, you need to check those pre-harvest intervals on the label before you apply insecticide."

If farmers don't get out to spray it can have serious consequences.

"They can literally eat the heads off the crops," Kadrmas said. "On the winter wheat they can eat it down to the ground."

There is a wide variety of insecticides, said Southwest Grain sales associate Rick Marsh, Dickinson.

"A lot of the grasshoppers that are out there go undetected," he said. "Controlling the grasshoppers before they become full adults is much easier than letting them do all their feeding and trying to control them later."

Marsh also said farmers can help control grasshopper populations by maintaining grass ways near fields.

"It's a challenging year," Kadrmas said, adding what is most disappointing is the yield on some crops. He said many farmers are bringing in low-bushel wheat.

"One guy told me '50 bushel stand, 30 bushel wheat,' and that was winter wheat," Kadrmas said. "You take winter wheat in and a lot of years it will be 60, 70-bushel wheat. It's still a good crop, but you need those big bushels to pay the bills."