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Montana Ag Network: Grasshoppers taking a toll

Montana Ag Network: Grasshoppers taking a toll
Posted at 11:07 AM, Aug 04, 2022

SCOBEY — Scobey residents know exactly how bad grasshoppers can get in Daniels County. One lifelong resident recalled the 1980’s, when the infestation was so bad, grasshoppers were on the sides of houses eating paint because most of everything else was gone. It’s not that bad today but residents say it’s the worst infestation in recent memory.

Some of the fields in and around Scobey today are green at first sight. But if you take a closer look, you'll see they're being damaged by grasshoppers.

Everywhere you look, there seem to be grasshoppers in buildings, hitchhiking on cars, and eating crops and other plants.

It has some residents concerned.

“The grasshopper infestation is the worst it's been here for quite a while. A lot of the farmers, there are several of them who are actually on their third trip of trying to do pest control,” Scobey resident Liana Handran said.

“If you look at the fields in the area, you can see where they've literally eaten the leaves off the plants. Farming and ranching is our backbone. It is the lifeline of our community. And if the farmers and ranchers have a bad year, so do the local businesses. So we all do what we can to help them.”

scobey montana map

Local agronomists have been seeing an increase in pesticide sales as well. Charley Hawbaker is from Scobey originally and agrees this year and last year are the worst he’s seen. Lots of the chemicals in their warehouse are taller than people, but the chemical people are commonly buying for grasshoppers is only one bag high, showing a high demand. “We’re about80% more, just last year. And then we are probably up probably 50%. This year There's guys throwing in hopper spray in crop, which is early,” Hawbaker said.

Pro Co Op AG Center's most common choice, they say, costs about 2 to $3 an acre. It's not the most effective, but it's the best option compared to other chemicals that run about $10 an acre.

“Some guys are pulling the trigger on the spendy stuff just because they’ve had to spray so much, just trying to get to harvest. I've seen fields with hundreds in a square yard when a threshold is two sprays, is around 30 to 40. You take a step in the ground moves and they're flying all in, all up in your face. And some guys are kind of down, down when they come in here and must buy more because it's their third or fourth time. But for the most part, we've got good crops right now. We've been fortunate. So guys are just trying to do what they can to protect them.”

Farmers will still be able to harvest some crops, but everyone in Daniel's County is counting on a cold winter to help with next summer and hopefully solve the grasshopper problem.