Primary drought effects are not the only concerns agricultural producers are facing this spring, as warmer, drier conditions tend to foster grasshopper populations.
On April 19 Leduc County, along with West-Central Forage Association, offered a drought, feed and pasture seminar, at which one of the keynote speakers addressed grasshoppers as an issue and grasshopper management practices.
Grant Lastwika, livestock and forage business specialist, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, says early spring rains are a determinant in whether or not grasshoppers will flourish in the following seasons. “If we get some really good rains in the latter part of May it really damages the hatch.”
“Grasshopper populations can be controlled quite dramatically with good grazing management,” said Lastwika.
“Be careful with all of this because once I start looking toward Leduc County I don’t see it being as bad. The reality is what was it for you?” Laswtiwa added, referring to the individual site attention importance.
Early spring it an important time for mitigation when it comes to grasshopper control. “Grazing management … more litter, more material present, more green forage present, all of those don’t allow the grasshopper the heat it needs.”
According to the Government of Alberta’s Agriculture and Forestry website, “Under hot, dry conditions, a small grasshopper population may do as much damage as a large grasshopper population will under cool, wet conditions.”
However, it also states, “During an extended drought, lack of water may slow the development of many eggs and can destroy eggs, especially during certain embryonic stages and just before hatching (eclosion). However, it has to be extremely dry before the grasshopper embryo begins to die under drought conditions.”
The extended drought conditions would also harm the crops and other vegetation, making positive effect there null.
In the February 2016 issue of West-Central Forage Association’s Forage News there is a 2016 grasshopper forecast; co-ordinated by David Brennan of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, with information gathered from surveys conducted by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry fieldmen.
According to the forecast report there is a risk of “significant” grasshopper populations across north central Alberta.
That area, along with others across the province, could possibly see the issue of ideal hatching conditions.
“Localized factors such as light soils on south facing slopes result in an elevated risk of grasshopper infestations,” the report states.
It continues, on an individual site basis more attention should be given to areas of growth with potential food sources, such as field margins, fence-lines and roadsides. “Individual producers need to be aware of the potential risks in their area and monitor fields in order to be prepared to make the appropriate decisions to implement control measures.”