Grasshoppers had a devastating impact on Montana’s range and farmlands in 2020 and 2021. This year, farmers, ranchers, landowners, and federal agencies are cautiously awaiting to see what is in store for 2022.
During the National Grasshopper Management Virtual Board Meeting this week, those concerns were discussed.
“There's still some high risk,” said Hannah Lewis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). “I think that's the big takeaway.”
Lewis provided a recap of grasshopper management treatments that took place during 2021 in Montana.
“We accomplished protecting 1.3 million acres,” Lewis told the meeting's virtual attendees. “That was about 43% of our initial requests. Geographically, we aided 11 counties and two reservations.”
USDA's Fall Rangeland Grasshopper Outlook showed a slightly better outlook from 2021 for grasshopper infestations. But drought will ultimately tip the balance of the scale.
In Montana, 45.8 million acres are forecasted to experience 8-15 grasshoppers per square yard (represented by orange on the map) and 8.6 million acres are projected to have more than 15 grasshoppers per square yard (represented by red on the map).
Montana State University's Phillips County Extension Agent Marko Manoukian said the tipping point is closer than anyone would prefer.
“That's 8 to 15 grasshoppers per square yard, said Manoukian. “The economic threshold is represented by red areas. There's about 8 million acres of 15 or more grasshoppers per square, yard. My concern is that we continue to stay dry like we did last year. The grasshoppers at those lower levels are going to have a major impact. So, we really don't need the higher red levels to have an impact. We'll just be in trouble with those at 8 to 15 or less orange areas.”
It’s clear grasshoppers will still be a problem this year. What is unclear, is if there will be any federal funding available to provide cost-share assists to landowners for grasshopper control methods when its need.