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Will Grasshoppers Be an Issue for Winter Wheat Emergence in 2021?

Green and brown grasshopper with two yellow lines that originate on the head and meet on the abdomen.
Figure 1. Adult two-striped grasshopper. Courtesy: Adam Varenhorst.

Originally Submitted: August 12, 2021

Grasshoppers were an issue in some areas of South Dakota during 2020 and continue to be an issue for several parts of the state in 2021. The drought conditions that are being experienced throughout much of South Dakota aren’t helping, as the grasshoppers’ populations are limited on available food. These populations have required management in other crops and should be monitored prior to and during winter wheat planting. Most observations have been of the two-striped and red-legged grasshoppers (Figure 1 and Figure 2), but differential grasshoppers are also being observed (Figure 3). As the season progresses, there will be even more limited food availability due to crop senescence, and grasshoppers will be forced to seek out green plants, such as wheat seedlings.

Green and black grasshopper with red hind legs.
Figure 2. Adult red-legged grasshopper. Note the red hind leg. Courtesy: Adam Varenhorst.

It is important to scout emerging winter wheat for grasshoppers and feeding injury, especially in areas where large populations are being observed. Newly emerged winter wheat is a very attractive host to grasshoppers.

Grasshoppers are capable of causing stand loss by clipping the emerging plants. This type of injury will be more noticeable along the field margins, as grasshoppers reside in the nearby vegetation.

To minimize the impact of grasshoppers on emerging winter wheat, it is important to monitor fields and determine grasshopper densities before and after planting.

Gasshopper Management Options

Green and yellow grasshopper with black chevron markings on hind legs.
Figure 3. Adult differential grasshopper. Note the black chevron markings on the hind leg. Courtesy: Adam Varenhorst.

Prior to Planting

Before planting, scout the vegetation around the field edges and count the number of grasshoppers that are present in approximately one square yard. Management should be considered if 11–20 grasshoppers per square yard are present in the non-crop borders. Here are a few management options to consider:

  1. Delay planting in areas where grasshopper populations are high to reduce the time that grasshoppers will be feeding on the emerging wheat.
  2. In areas with increased grasshopper population densities, winter wheat planting population can be doubled in a 60 to 120 feet-wide strip around the field edge. As grasshoppers move into the field, they will feed on the emerging wheat. However, the increased plant stands around the edge will slow the movement of the grasshoppers into the rest of the field. The increased plant stand will compensate for the lost seedlings and allow for a reasonable stand to exist after grasshoppers have finished foraging for the year.
  3. Insecticide seed treatments are labeled for grasshopper management in winter wheat and can provide protection during emergence. For grasshoppers, treated seed can be planted along field edges in a strip that is 60 to 120 feet-wide, or it can be planted to the entire field. For effective management of grasshoppers, the highest registered rate of the product should be applied to the seed. Please refer to the latest South Dakota Pest Management Guide: Wheat for insecticide seed treatment options and recommended rates.
  4. Foliar insecticide sprays may be applied to the non-crop field edges to prevent the grasshoppers from moving into the wheat fields. Before selecting an insecticide, check the label to ensure that it can be sprayed on non-crop areas. See Table 1 for a list of non-crop and pasture insecticide options.

Table 1. Foliar insecticides labeled for non-crop management of grasshoppers.1

Insecticide
Rate2, 3
(for grasshoppers)
Restricted Entry Interval
(hours)
Non-Cropland4
Asana XL
(esfenvalerate)
2.9 to 4.8 fluid oz. per acre
12
Karate Insecticide with Zeon2 Technology
(lambda-cyhalothrin)
1.28 to 1.92 fluid oz. per acre
24
Warrior II with Zeon Technology2
(lambda-cyhalothrin)
1.28 to 1.92 fluid oz. per acre
24

1 This list is not meant to be comprehensive. Always read and follow label directions.
2 Label rates for non-cropland are based on those of adjacent crop.
3 Adult grasshoppers will require higher rates than nymphs (immatures).
4 Do not graze livestock on treated areas.

After Planting

If grasshopper populations are causing severe defoliation or clipping in newly emerged winter wheat, it is important to determine if the populations are above eight grasshoppers per square-yard. Additionally, determine how far into the field the grasshopper populations are. Here are some management options to consider for emerged wheat.

When injury and grasshoppers are only present around the field edge, a foliar application of insecticide to that area may be sufficient for reducing grasshopper feeding pressure. It is important to remember that there will be little residual activity of the foliar insecticides due to the limited leaf area of emerging wheat. Please refer to the latest South Dakota Pest Management Guide: Wheat for a list of foliar insecticides that may be applied to wheat.

If injury to the field edge is severe due to heavy grasshopper feeding pressure, it is possible to replant those areas after the first hard frost occurs. At this time, grasshopper populations will have declined significantly.