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Last updated 3:57PM ET
February 24, 2021
Nebraska News
Nebraska News
Grasshoppers marching on south central Nebraska
(NET Radio) - For more informatin on the grasshopper infestation, click here

With additional spring rains this year, farmers and ranchers in West Central Nebraska may have been hoping for bumper crops, but what they've gotten is more grasshoppers than they've seen in 20 years. Morning Edition host Grant Gerlock interviewed David Boxler, a University of Nebraska Entomologist based in North Platte. Boxler ays the grasshopper outbreak is a hangover from a decade of drought.

BOXLER: Well, it's an infestation we haven't seen since probably the 1980s, the magnitude of this population. And it's cyclic, and a lot of it is generated by our extended drought. Grasshoppers like dry conditions. We've had the drought for the last 10 years. This is kind of an accumulation of all those years. All the conditions were good for a good egg hatch.

GERLOCK: How bad is the problem? What areas have been hit hardest?

BOXLER: Well, the area is actually from the Kansas border up to South Dakota, and Kearney west to about Ogallala. Then there are a few counties in the Panhandle that have exceptionally high rangeland grasshopper problems too.

GERLOCK: There have been drought problems in recent years, but this spring was pretty wet. Isn't that supposed to knock down the grasshopper population?

BOXLER: Well, yes it's supposed to, but what happened was that this spring was different. We had a cool spring, April and May. And our soil temperatures didn't increase very quickly. And we noticed that problem with the corn planting. Germination was behind by 2-3 weeks in certain areas. Ironically the grasshopper egg needs a similar temperature to hatch. So the egg hatch was delayed in some cases up to 2-3 weeks. Unfortunately that didn't coincide with the wet damp conditions that we saw in the latter part of May.
So just a different in the weather in those few weeks made a big difference.
It certainly did. Normally, if we compare this year to last year. Last year we were seeing grasshoppers in late April and early May. This year we didn't start to see grasshoppers until the early part of June in some areas. So it was a complete different set of circumstances this year.

GERLOCK: With the numbers you're seeing now out there, what kind of damage can people expect? Is this a risk to the agricultural feedstocks in that area?

BOXLER: This year with all the moisture we've received we have plenty of grass. So that really not too much of an issue at this point this year. In the cropland areas that's a little different story. The cropland grasshoppers usually develop in the borrow pits and the crop border areas alongside and adjacent to the field. And as that vegetation starts to wind down or be eaten then they will move into the crop areas. And two crops especially of concern are alfalfa and soybeans. Those are very lush and very attractive for the grasshoppers.

GERLOCK So if you have the grasshoppers piling up in your garden or your fields is it too late to do anything about it?

BOXLER: Well, it's getting late, but yes you can still apply a border treatment. And if you can keep the hoppers in your border areas you can treat just those borders and that way you wouldn't have to treat your crop area. And also one thing you can do as a cultural method is do not mow those border areas down. A lot of times people would like to mow the weeds down cause they get into the fields. Well once you mow those weeds or grass down that will drive the hoppers right into the crops and we've seen that occasionally here this year too.

GERLOCK: David Boxler, Thank you.

BOXLER: Thank You

David Boxler is an Entymology Research Technician working out of North Platte for the University of Nebraska. He says if your vegetable garden is overrun by grasshoppers you could use an insecticide, but be sure to check the label. Some chemicals remain in the environment so long, you may not be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
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