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Grasshoppers damage crops, pastures in eastern Mont., western N.D.

Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 2:42 PM CDT
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BOWMAN COUNTY, N.D. - Grasshoppers thrive in this hot, dry weather and they are moving into the state, destroying pasture grass and crops.

Rhame producer Trevor Steeke has been chronicling the drought and now the grasshopper damage.

“In my 25 years of farming and ranching I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “They’re eating it down to nothing. You can see in my 300 acres of barley they’ve eaten it to the ground. There’s nothing left.”

In a normal year, Steeke would get 1,500-3,000 bales on a 1,000-acre field. This year, he got 53.

“It’s going to be a tough year,” Steeke said. “A lot of tough decisions are going to have to be made.”

He’s already cut his sheep herd from 150 to 38. Everything he grows, he uses to feed his sheep, cattle and goats.

Across the border, near Wibaux, Montana, Syndi Miske’s photos and videos tell much the same story. She says hoppers destroyed their barley. Their crop insurance adjuster approved grazing portions of their barley fields, but she’s still worried about the damage these insects could cause.

“It’s one thing on top of another this year,” said Bowman County extension agent Max Robison.

Robison says the grasshoppers are the worst in the Rhame area, but they’re on the move.

“They’re moving east and most of the guys that have still have some green grass or anything that’s tall enough they’re seeing a lot of small grasshoppers right now. I’ve been seeing more and more large ones from east so I think they’re just going to keep moving that way and take out whatever they can,” said Robison.

He says the best thing producers can do is keep a watchful eye out for the insects, and consider spraying to keep the populations down.

Meanwhile, producers like Steeke are holding out hope that rain might still come and hope that next year will be better.

“There’s always next year,” he said. “You have to keep your head up.”d

The worst may not be over; NDSU extension says grasshopper feeding activity usually peaks in August.

Producers can learn more about grasshopper control on the NDSU extension website.

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