In Short

State agriculture officials offer $5 million in grants to fight voracious grasshoppers and Mormon crickets

By: - May 19, 2022 4:14 pm

Grasshoppers, which devour stems and flowers, love domestic crops like wheat but they also enjoy native grasses and weeds. (Getty Images)

The state is offering $5 million in grants to help landowners in Oregon cope with an expected infestation this summer of grasshoppers and Mormon crickets.

The insects are native to the West and outbreaks are cyclical, with the latest cycle starting in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2020, the insects caused significant damage in Oregon by devouring forage and plants on 60% of acreage surveyed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

To apply:

Report an outbreak online or fill out a form.

After treatment, fill out a reimbursement request.

Turn in a W-9 form.

For more information, go here.

Last summer, the devastation was worse. Grasshoppers and Mormon crickets chewed through 10 million acres across Oregon – the worst attack in 50 years, the department said.

Malheur and Harney counties were among the hardest hit, according to the department. Surveyors found about 65 insects per square yard. Eight is enough to do significant damage, the department said.

Outbreaks often coincide with drought, which continues to plague the West. Low rainfall and warm spring weather helps eggs to hatch and survive, allowing the bugs to rapidly multiply while overcoming the threat of predators and diseases that can limit their numbers. Outbreaks cause shortages of forage and vegetation for livestock and wildlife, and that, in turn, damages the soil and causes erosion. Hungry grasshoppers can also become a pest in agricultural fields by eating crops.

Last December, state lawmakers approved the grants, a first to combat the insects, the department said. The agency has faced past complaints about its grasshopper program being underfunded. More than $4 million will help private landowners and land managers cover up to 75% of the cost of suppression and treatment with pesticides, and just over $800,000 will be devoted to pre-treatment and post-treatment surveys, according to a release. 

(Oregon Department of Agriculture)

Landowners won’t get any money upfront. Rather, they have to report an outbreak or request a state survey, which need to be done through July 4, the department said. State agricultural officials then will craft a treatment plan. Owners can only use licensed applicators. Afterwards, owners have to apply for reimbursement of treatment costs, including by August 1. Reimbursement rates may vary, depending on the acreage.

The treatments will be overseen by federal and state agricultural officials. The grants only allow for the use of the insecticide diflubenzuron. It disrupts the normal development of the insects’ exoskeleton which protects them from the outside. 

The insecticide, which is applied aerially, only has to be used once in a season, the department said. It is not toxic to bees and has low toxicity for people, livestock and wildlife. It can be used in field crops and orchards, as well. Another advantage: It does not persist in the environment, with a half life of two to seven days in the soil.

Typically, applicators leave untreated areas to provide refuge for beneficial insects like dung beetles.

The department said it would send the grant money by Oct. 22.

 

 

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Lynne Terry
Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years. She has won state, regional and national awards, including a National Headliner Award for a long-term care facility story and a top award from the National Association of Health Care Journalists for an investigation into government failures to protect the public from repeated salmonella outbreaks. She loves to cook and entertain, speaks French and is learning Portuguese.

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