Grasshoppers break out — but not as much as 2011

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COLLEGE STATION – After a dry winter, as expected, grasshoppers are becoming a problem, but they are not as severe or profuse as they were during the 2011 drought, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

“It’s mid-summer and the grasshoppers have gotten bigger; they’re now winged, so they’re moving into other crops and orchards,” said Dr. Allen Knutson, an AgriLife Extension entomologist, Dallas.

As they were in 2011, this year’s grasshopper outbreaks are connected to drought conditions, he said. From July through the fall, grasshoppers deposit their eggs 0.5 to 2 inches below the soil surface. On an average year, fungus and other diseases take a toll on egg survival, thereby reducing the first generation grasshoppers that hatch in the spring.

But most of the fungi and diseases affecting egg survival depend upon moist conditions, so during a drought year, outbreaks are expected, Knutson said.

But the outbreaks this year – at least so far – have been spotty, he said.

“Though some areas have had good rains, which reduce grasshopper populations, others have not, and they’ll still have problems,” he said. “They are intense in some areas, while others don’t have any.”

Reports from AgriLife Extension county agents support Knutson’s account.

Logan Lair, AgriLife Extension agent in Navarro County, northeast of Waco, reported, “Grasshoppers, grasshoppers, grasshoppers; they are back and with a vengeance. This is affecting hay production.”

Heath Lusty, AgriLife Extension agent in Lampasas County, north of Austin, reported that along with hot, dry, windy conditions, “grasshoppers are a serious issue in some parts of the county.”

In East Texas, where grasshopper infestations were especially severe in 2011, there was only one county reporting outbreaks in June, that of Rich Hirsch, AgriLife Extension agent in Henderson County, west of Tyler.

More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries for the week of June 17-23:

The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Districts

Central: There were many reports of grasshoppers. Area conditions remained good, with some rain. In some instances, hay yields were two big round bales per acre. Corn and sorghum looked good. Pond and stock-tank levels remained very low. The high temperatures were causing range and coastal pastures to lose color. The wheat harvest was finished, with good yields reported. There were some reports of prussic acid poisoning of cattle.

Coastal Bend: There were scattered showers in some areas, but hot days and windy weather dried out soils. In most instances, the rains came too little and too late to significantly impact row crop production. Corn and grain sorghum farmers were readying for harvest. Later-planted grain sorghum showed signs of stress and needed a rain soon. Producers continued to make hay in some areas. Pasture conditions improved, but were deteriorating quickly due to the high winds and temperatures. Grasshoppers in pastures and hay meadows reached treatable levels. Ponds remained low or dry in many counties.

East: Rain fell across the region, with some northern and southern counties of the region receiving as much as 2 inches, while central areas got 0.5 inch or less. Some counties were 5 inches below normal on rainfall for the year, and crops were showing signs of moisture stress. Those counties that received rain reported good grass growth and crop yields. Vegetable gardens were producing enough for farmers to sell at local markets. Hay yields depended upon recent rains. Producers were controlling brush and weeds. Livestock producers were weaning and selling market-ready calves. Cattle were in good condition. Reports of horn fly infestations were increasing. Feral hogs were active.

Far West: Some areas received from a trace to 1.3 inches of rain. In some cases hail, from pea-sized to 0.25 inch in diameter, accompanied the rain. Generally, weather continued to be hot, dry and windy. Cotton was progressing well, and fall onions were being harvested. Alfalfa growers were taking the third cutting. Ranchers who received rain were holding onto cattle while those who didn’t were beginning to sell.

North: Soil-moisture levels ranged from short to adequate. Some counties received rain, which benefited pastures, corn, grain sorghum and soybeans. However, the rains also delayed the finishing of the wheat harvest. An estimated 80 percent of wheat has been harvested, with good yields, ranging from 60 to 80 bushels per acre. Corn was tassling and looked good in most areas. Sorghum was reported to be in really good condition, as were sunflowers. Cotton emerged and was in good condition too. Ryegrass was being baled up for hay in some areas. Livestock were in good condition, and spring calves were rapidly growing. Some counties still needed runoff to recharge stock-water tanks. Grasshopper pressure was high, and feral hogs were causing severe damage in some areas.

Panhandle: Temperatures were near average. Most of the area received from a trace to 3 inches of rain, which allowed some growers to shut down irrigation systems for at least a few days. Producers were dodging hail and dealing with very high winds much of the week. There were reports of wind damage to buildings and center-pivot systems. Corn and cotton continued to be rated mostly fair to good. There was some green up of rangeland and pastures, but both continued to be rated mostly very poor.

Rolling Plains: Western parts of the region received from 3 to 6 inches of rain. Motley County also received hail and damaging winds that downed power lines and overturned pivot systems. Although the storms caused considerable damage to crops, they benefited pastures and rangeland. Stock-water ponds were filled and pastures were greener than they have been for more than two years. Sudan grass began to look very good, improving enough that some producers were already grazing it to allow pastures to rest and recover. Low lake levels remained a major concern in some areas. The wheat harvest was completed. Producers reported yield reductions of 10 to 70 percent due to earlier freeze damage. Cattle were generally in good shape, with rangeland and pastures in mixed condition depending on stocking rates and rain. Cattlemen were able, however, to ease up on supplemental feeding. Parker County reported that grasshoppers were starting to damage some pastures, and a few producers were already spraying.

South: Soil-moisture levels varied across the region. Atascosa and Frio counties reported 100 percent adequate soil moisture; Jim Wells County, 75 percent adequate; Dimmit and Maverick counties, 80 percent adequate; and Zavala County, 100 percent adequate. Other counties’ soil moisture ranged from short to very short. In Frio County, peanut growers were planting, corn was maturing and sorghum was turning color. McMullen County rangeland and pastures improved but were still poor in many fields because of the drought and overgrazing. However, ranchers were able to reduce supplemental feeding, and cattle body condition scores were mostly good. Duval County reported crops were not well-rooted and showed signs of stress because of very high temperatures. Jim Wells County also reported heat and moisture stress on range, pastures and other vegetation. Producers there were harvesting hay. In Zavala County, rangeland and pasture conditions continued to improve. As a result of good grazing, supplemental feeding of livestock ceased or was greatly reduced. Also in that county, cotton, sorghum, corn and other crops were doing well, and the onion harvest resumed. In Webb County, supplemental feeding also declined, but livestock producers were still waiting for an alleviation of drought conditions before restocking herds. In Cameron County, some producers were harvesting grain sorghum, cotton was setting bolls and irrigation was active. In Hidalgo County, producers were harvesting grain sorghum.

South Plains: Thunderstorms rumbled through the region, bringing much-needed moisture. Unfortunately, the storms also brought hail and high winds. In between the storms, the wind was blowing dirt, and many producers were in sand-fighting mode. Rain accumulations varied greatly from county to county and even farm to farm. There were reports of as little as 0.6 inch to as much as 4 inches. A lot of cotton will have to be replanted due to wind and or hail damage. Estimates of 25,000 to 30,000 acres were lost in southeast Lubbock County alone. Some dryland cotton fields were released by insurance adjusters, while other fields hung in the balance because though they have a stand, there is only moisture in the top few inches of soil. Loss determinations were ongoing. Many producers will plant back with forage sorghum or sunflowers. Rangeland and pasture conditions were improving where there was substantial rain. Cattle remained in mostly fair to good condition and were expected to improve after a couple of weeks with additional forage growth. The storms also hampered the winter wheat harvest. Peanuts were looking good.

Southeast: Summer was in full force in Brazos County. Growing conditions were good in Walker County. Dry conditions in Burleson County were withering pasture grasses. Grasshoppers were a problem in untreated pastures. Chambers County reported a few showers, with crops in good condition. Fort Bend County received scattered rain showers. High temperatures were in the 90s and lows in the low 60s. Orange County had sporadic rains, but soil moisture was adequate, which along with hot weather supported vigorous forage growth.

Southwest: Conditions were generally warmer and drier than the week before, though some areas received 2 inches of rain. Crops were doing well, particularly irrigated crops, but even much of dryland corn and grain sorghum was expected to make a crop, with some above-average yields predicted. Hay producers were cutting Sudan, Klein and coastal Bermuda grasses. Cattle were doing well on rangelands with very little supplementation. Grasshoppers were a severe problem in some pastures and gardens.

West Central: Though some scattered showers were reported, generally the district remained hot, dry and windy. Some counties initiated burn bans. Cotton growers continued planting as crop insurance deadlines approached. Rain delayed planting in some areas. Most wheat was harvested. Where there had been rain, summer forage crops were off to a good start with good growth, and rangeland and pastures improved. Livestock remained in fair to good condition, but herd numbers were low with very little restocking. Many stock ponds and tanks remained critically low and some producers continued to haul water. A few areas received rain to produce sufficient runoff to fill ponds and stock tanks to capacity. Pecan growers were irrigating orchards.


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