‘Severe’ grasshopper numbers loom over northern Alberta

CNS Canada –– A mild winter and a warm, dry spring have created some favourable hatching conditions for grasshoppers in Alberta, with the possibility of a severe outbreak in some areas.

According to Mark Cutts, a crop specialist with Alberta Agriculture in Stettler, higher numbers of grasshoppers lie in a region northwest of Edmonton.

Beyond that, the numbers increase in the Peace River area before becoming severe to potentially very severe in the North Peace.

The problem is more muted in southern Alberta, where numbers are generally rated moderate to very light with the odd severe patch.

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“They’re (grasshoppers) not scared off by northern latitudes; (the) northern Peace has been dry, so that’s always a good recipe for population increases because that’s kind of what they thrive on, is those dry type conditions,” he explained.

At this point few, if any, of the eggs have hatched, but it should happen soon, said Cutts.

“The potential for good hatches is there; even areas that are light may end up with good hatches,” he noted.

As crops emerge, he expects the pests to move into cereal crops or another preferred food.

Fortunately for pea growers, grasshoppers don’t count peas as their favourite menu items — but the same doesn’t hold true for lentils, Cutts said.

“Potentially there is some interaction with lentil crops and grasshoppers. It will come down to numbers and weather conditions.”

Heading into next week, it appears weather conditions will remain conducive for grasshopper development in Alberta.

Numbers could take a hit, though, if any type of major rainstorm event were to happen at a crucial time, Cutts said.

“If they were just hatching and there was a significant rainfall event, that’s when they are susceptible. Prior to that, heavy rain on eggs themselves typically doesn’t cause a lot of concerns.”

Once the insects are fully grown, though, Cutts said they can simply crawl up on a plant to escape water threats.

Dave Sims writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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