Grasshoppers vex farmers in Nebraska

Monday, July 1, 2002

KEARNEY, Neb. -- Drought is not the only thing ravaging Nebraska's crops. Swarms of grasshoppers also are spreading havoc among farmers in central areas of the state, according to the Nebraska Farm Bureau.

That comes despite efforts last month by a coalition of ranchers in the area to kill off young grasshoppers with spray insecticide.

Roger Muckel, owner of Muckels Aerial in Prosser, Neb., said his office is getting more calls from farmers frantic to rid their crops of the plant-munching pests.

"It's the last thing these growers needed this summer," he said.

Muckel's response to those seeking help is less than encouraging. Trying to control a patch of grasshoppers, he said, is like trying to make a dry spot in the middle of the ocean.

"They're just going to keep coming," Muckel said.

Farmers and ranchers do have some eradication options to stem the tide of grasshoppers. Three chemicals -- Dimilin, Sevin and Malathion -- work well on young grasshoppers, said Gary Hein, an entomologist at the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff, Neb.

But adult grasshoppers -- like many of the ones in fields now -- are much harder to destroy.

"If you're treating adults, you're better off saving your money" on Hein said.

State officials said the cost of traditional treatments per acre is about $6 to $7.

Gov. Mike Johanns and some farm groups have asked the Nebraska congressional delegation and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman for any federal funds that could be used to help fight grasshoppers.

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