Drought causing grasshopper problems for some farmers, ranchers


by ANDREW CHUNG / KVUE News and Photojournalist SCOTT MCKENNEY


Posted on July 21, 2013 at 10:51 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 22 at 10:01 AM

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas -- You can't always see them, but you can see what they've done to the grass in a Williamson County field. 

The field belongs to Fred Richter, a farmer and rancher in Thrall in Williamson County. 

"Now they're coming in here and eating the leaves off of the plants that (we) want the cattle to graze," he said.

The damage done to the vegetation is all due to the grasshopper. When you think of the grasshopper, you may think of a bunch of them, ready to attack, but it doesn't take a swarm to damage crops.

Richter said the grasshoppers were a bigger problem in 2011, during the dry, excessively hot summer. "And that year, they would actually eat. They would strip the leaves completely off the plants," he said.

The rains the area saw recently were a big blessing for Richter, who said it seemed to drive some of the grasshoppers away. "They're still here, but they're not in high, big numbers that I would be concerned about," he said.

He hasn't had to use insecticide on these pests this year - at least not yet. That could change if the area doesn't see more rain.

Rachel Bauer is the Texas A&M AgriLife extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in Bastrop County. She's gotten many calls concerning these insects and said grasshoppers love it when there's a drought.

"We're in a tough situation now, because we're in drought anyway, and we don't have a lot of forage for our livestock to eat, so if the grasshoppers are eating it, they're going to have, the producers are going to have to start feeding hay. So it's going to cause a great economic loss to them," she explained.

Bauer said because grasshoppers are so mobile and the areas they cover tend to be large, controlling them can be difficult. "There's not a lot that the landowners can do at this point, aside from try to harvest what crop and what grass that they've got, to try to salvage it, and...you're kind of at the mercy of the grasshoppers at this point."

However, Bauer mentioned that if you keep the area around your crops mowed, it can help cut down the number of grasshoppers, since they like to hide in weeds.

The best solution, she said, is for Central Texas to get more rain.