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Grasshopper problems likely to get worse
Grasshopper problems likely to get worse   | colsta_bry_txbz, Allen Knutso

A grasshopper seems to be waiting patiently for a train to pass near Kerens. (Texas AgriLife Extension Service photo by Robert Burns)

Texas Business reports: COLLEGE STATION – If you’ve got grasshopper problems now, you’re probably going to continue to have them until this fall, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service entomologist.

Grasshoppers are long-lived; they’re with us most of the summer, and growers are still battling them, said Allen Knutson, AgriLife Extension entomologist, Dallas.

Some producers have already had to re-treat two or three times to protect crops, Knutson said.

And because grasshoppers thrive in hot weather, the problems they pose to crops will likely get worse before they get better, he said.

“As we get into the hot, dry summer, more and more of their wild host plants –- weeds and wild grasses — dry up, and that forces them into our crops, especially irrigated fields,” he said.

High grasshopper populations are tied to drought for a number of reasons, according to Knutson. The first grasshopper hatch was earlier than normal because spring warmed up sooner than normal. And because many areas had a dry winter, a fungus, Entomophthora grylli, that usually causes high grasshopper mortality was not as prevalent in many areas.

He noted that if producers in a particular area didn’t have an early grasshopper population boom, they’re unlikely to see one later in the summer. Though grasshoppers live two months or after they reach the adult stage, they are homebodies, rarely travelling more than a few miles from where they were hatched.

AgriLife reporters compiled the following summaries for the 12 extension districts.

Central: Most counties received from 0.5 inch to 3 inches of rain. The rain temporarily slowed the corn harvest and the harvesting of sorghum for grain or forage. Conditions varied from county to county. Some corn and sorghum producers hoped for a “dry window” to allow them to harvest. Sorghum producers were finding moisture levels too high for harvest. Other cornfields would benefit from a good rain. Corn yields were expected to vary, with some fields producing 100 to 120 bushels per acre, but averages will probably be closer to 50 to 60 bushels per acre. Rangeland and pastures were in good to very good condition. Most hay was harvested, but there was still not much for sale. 
Those who benefited most from the recent rains were livestock producers. Warm-season forages that normally dry down and wither away by mid-July were actively growing. Grasshopper damage was on the rise again. The pecan crop looked good.

Coastal Bend: The area had a few scattered showers with high temperatures in the mid 90s. Row crops were still drying out, but farmers expected to be able to restart the grain sorghum and corn harvests soon. In some areas, heavy rains caused sorghum heads to sprout and did other damage. Cotton continued to look great in the northern areas, with many producers expecting yields of nearly three bales per acre. Many producers in the southern area have shredded ‘disastered-out’ cotton fields. Some producers expected to get another cutting of hay. Hay and forages were abundant in the northern counties, largely because livestock producers de-stocked last year. Southern pastures remained drought-stressed.

East: Some counties received rain. Parts of Nacogdoches County received as much as 7 inches. Hay harvesting was ongoing with some producers on their third cutting. Grasshopper damage increased. Vegetable growers reported disease and insect problems. Feral hogs continued to cause damage.

Far West: Some counties received from 0.3 to almost 1 inch of rain. Highs were in the upper 90s and lows in the upper 50s. Where there was rain, pastures greened up. Pecans were growing, and alfalfa cutting was in progress. Predators were a major problem for sheep and goat producers. In Pecos County, losses ranged from one to five kills per night per producer. Sheep and goat prices rose in the last month, making it easier to lower stocking rates.

North: Soil-moisture levels remained short to adequate. Some counties received moderate amounts of rain while others only got a trace. Farmers were expecting corn to be ready for harvest in a week to 10 days. Pastures were in fair to good condition but needed rain soon. Cotton was in fair to excellent condition. Hay harvesting continued. Stock-water tanks were in very good shape. An increasing grasshopper population was still a major problem. Livestock were in good condition.

Panhandle: The weather was extremely hot, dry and windy. Highs were from 95 to 100 degrees every day, causing increased rates of evapotranspiration. In some areas, crop-water demands were at peak levels with many crops needing 0.25-0.35 inches per day for growth. Soil moisture was mostly short to very short. Corn was in very poor to excellent condition, with most counties reporting fair to good. Sorghum was mostly fair to good. Soybeans and peanuts were in mostly fair to good condition. Cotton varied from very poor to excellent condition, with most reporting fair to good. Rangeland and pastures were in very poor to excellent condition with most reporting very poor to poor. Cattle were in fair condition.

Rolling Plains: The region remained extremely hot and dry. Without rain soon, it was predicted this year’s dryland cotton crop will fail. The only cotton left in the region was under irrigation. Dryland cotton was only about 6 inches tall, with some plants already starting to bloom. Irrigated cotton looked better, but without rain soon, much of it will likely fail too. Peanut producers reported an average-looking crop with little disease pressure. Producers worried irrigation wells may fail early. They were pumped hard last year, and there hasn’t been enough rain this year to replenish the water table. Rural communities were also beginning to have water-well problems. Ranchers weren’t any better off as pastures were playing out fast with no grazing left for cattle. Some were providing supplemental feed on a daily basis, while others continued to ship cattle to sale barns or out of state.

South: Scattered showers throughout the northern part of the region kept soil-moisture levels at 50 to 100 percent adequate. Soil moisture conditions throughout the rest of the region remain short to very short. The rain in the northern counties somewhat improved rangeland and pastures but only slightly raised stock-tank water levels. McMullen County reported some early weaning and shipping of calves to different locations. There was an increase in supplemental feed in that area. Body condition scores were declining. Overall, supplemental feeding of livestock increased throughout the region. In Atascosa County, the sorghum harvest was nearly done, peanuts were progressing well, cotton was looking fairly good and producers continued to harvest Bermuda grass hay. In Frio County, the corn harvest was slowed by scattered showers, peanut planting was completed with early planted fields starting to peg, and sorghum and cotton were developing well. In Jim Wells County, the harvesting of sorghum and corn continued in some areas. In other parts of the county, crops had to be either plowed under or baled for supplemental feed. In Maverick County, most vegetable crops were harvested, sorghum and corn were ready for harvest, and pecans were in good condition. In Zavala County, the sorghum harvest was completed, and there were reports of light insect pressure on cotton. In Cameron County, the sorghum harvest continued, the cotton harvest began and the corn harvest ended. In Hidalgo County, field operations were interrupted by rain. In Willacy County, the cotton harvest began, and the sorghum harvest was nearly over.

South Plains: Temperatures were in the mid to upper 90s, with light winds and isolated spotty showers. Some counties reported a trace to nearly 1 inch of rain. Crosby County reported moderate hail damage along with the rain. Producers with irrigation were struggling to keep up with water demands of crops. Some failed dryland cotton acreage was replanted to milo. Dryland cotton that was hanging on was beginning to cut out, with some locations blooming in the tops. Field activities included applications of herbicide, fertilizer and cotton-growth regulators. Insect pressure was minimal. Pastures and rangeland were holding on but needed rain for growth and stand improvement. Livestock were mostly in good condition.

Southeast: In Burleson County, farmers were harvesting dryland corn early. Scattered showers early in the week provided much-needed moisture for pastures and row crops. In Brazoria County, fields were saturated from heavy rains. Some farmers reported head sprouting on grain sorghum. Chambers County reported the rainy days during the last two weeks came at the wrong time for rice to mature properly. Heavy rains can cause flowers to drop off and may raise disease pressure in the crop. Jefferson County had some scattered showers, with highs in low to mid 90s and lows in the mid 70s. Orange County reported rangeland and pastures were improving after the rains. Pecan growers reported scab disease as being worse than normal.

Southwest: Rains helped revive rangelands and brought some stock tanks and ponds up to or near capacity and replenished rivers. Temperatures were lower because of the rains and cloud cover. Despite the rains, Uvalde County remained under Stage 4 water restrictions. The corn and sorghum harvests continued with good yields reported.

West Central: Triple-digit temperatures continued to deplete soil moisture. Pastures and crops in areas that had scattered showers were doing better. Some cutting and baling of hay was under way. Rain will be needed for a second cutting of hay. Cotton farmers were spraying. Early planted cotton was progressing well, with later planted fields under moisture stress. Many producers were plowing fields in preparation for planting wheat. Grain sorghum growers planned to start harvesting soon. Pecan crops were doing well as growers irrigated orchards.