Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Grasshoppers – How to Protect Your Garden and Farm with Eco-Friendly Tactics

When conditions are right, grasshoppers can unexpectedly become a big problem for growers. But what are your options to effectively control outbreaks?

Let's explore some effective strategies for managing grasshopper populations in your garden or farm without relying on harmful pesticides. In this article, we'll cover:

  • The lifecycle and habits of grasshoppers that make them pests.
  • Natural and eco-friendly methods to control grasshopper populations.

Grasshopper Life Cycle and Their Impact
Grasshoppers are closely related to crickets and katydids. What sets them apart from their jumping cousins is their ability to quickly grow into pest status and destroy forage and crops in farms and gardens. A large part of their threat stems from their eating habits; they can consume half their body weight in plants each day, making them a formidable foe for any grower. 



The lifecycle of a grasshopper plays a crucial 
role in its pest behavior. 
Starting from eggs laid in soil, they progress through several nymph stages before becoming adults. This process can take a few months; the bigger they get, the more damage they do. 

A warm spring and a hot, dry summer are ideal conditions for a boom in a grasshopper population. Dry conditions limit fungal diseases that normally curb their numbers, while warm temperatures accelerate the hatching and growth of nymphs.

Understanding these aspects of grasshopper biology and behavior is key to managing their populations effectively. The sooner actions are taken, the better your chance of minimizing damage. 

Natural and Eco-friendly Grasshopper Control Methods
Several natural and eco-friendly strategies can be employed to manage grasshopper populations effectively while minimizing environmental impact. These methods not only target grasshoppers but also support maintaining the ecological balance in your garden or farm.

Azadirachtin: Extracted from the neem tree, azadirachtin acts as a growth regulator for grasshoppers, disrupting their lifecycle and reducing their ability to reproduce. It's safe for use around beneficial insects and animals, making it an ideal choice for organic gardening and farming. Research has shown that azadirachtin prevents nymphs from shedding their skin and impacts the reproductive organs of males and females. Check out AzaGuard for both repellent and control treatment. 

Pyrethrins: Derived from chrysanthemum flowers, pyrethrins are fast-acting
insecticides that target the nervous system of grasshoppers. They break down quickly in the environment, reducing the risk of long-term residue. A product like 
PyGanic is available as a spray and comes in multiple volumes for the weekend gardener or full-time farmer.
 
Nosema locustae: This naturally occurring microsporidian fungus targets grasshoppers and some locust species. When ingested, it causes a disease that can significantly reduce grasshopper populations. Typically, the spores are added to a wheat bran bait that can be broadcast into an area. The grasshoppers eat the bait, along with the spores. However, products such as NOLO Bait and Semaspore are currently unavailable. The manufacturer's factory burned to the ground, and production is extremely limited. 

Beauveria bassiana: This fungus acts as a biological insecticide by infecting and killing grasshoppers. It's applied as a spore-coated formulation with which grasshoppers ingest or come into contact with. The fungus then grows inside the grasshopper, killing it, and it's particularly useful in managing large populations. Certain strains of the fungus can be more effective on specific species. It's available as a liquid under two product names:  Mycotrol O and Botanigard ES. Or, you can use it in a wettable powder.


Garlic Spray: While research on the effectiveness of a garlic barrier spray is still
lacking, there is a 
study that suggests it not only acts as a repellent but can also kill grasshoppers.
 
Cultural Methods:
  • Prescribed Burns: Carefully managed burns can eliminate grasshopper eggs and reduce plant material that serves as food for nymphs and adults. This method requires precise timing and safety precautions to prevent unintended damage.
  • Mowing: Regular mowing reduces habitat and food sources for grasshoppers, making the area less attractive for them to lay eggs.
  • Trap Crops: Planting trap crops around the perimeter of your main crop can lure grasshoppers away, concentrating them in a specific area where they can be more easily managed with the above methods.

Conclusion

Grasshoppers are a difficult pest to manage, even with traditional pesticide applications. However, it's clear that there are alternative solutions that can be just as effective. Utilizing botanical insecticides, biological controls, and strategic cultural practices offers a sustainable path forward in managing grasshopper populations.  - Grant @ARBICO Organics

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