High Plains wheat producers who are normally ready to put seed in the ground might want to hold off this year, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialists in Amarillo.
With the extremely heavy pressure from grasshoppers, as well as other insects and diseases due to the wet year, waiting until the growing plants or “green bridge,” is broken is advisable, said Dr. Jourdan Bell, AgriLife Extension agronomist, and Dr. Ed Bynum, AgriLife Extension entomologist.
“While we know wheat producers generally begin to plant in September, it really would be best if they could wait until mid-October to avoid grasshoppers and other issues,” Bell said. “The risk will be losing some of the grazing in the fall, but wheat that is planted earlier is more susceptible to insects and pathogens.”
The heavy grasshopper populations this summer have not gone away, Bynum said. “Grasshoppers are still here, and they will be here until we have a good hard freeze, so it could be late October,” he said. “Young wheat will be attractive to them, so they could quickly affect plant stands.”
Bynum said producers who plant early will need to scout for grasshopper damage once the plants emerge, and they may have to make an insecticide application if the infestation gets too heavy.
He said there are numerous organophosphates, pyrethroids and other classes of insecticides labeled for grasshopper control in field crops. But he advised those who have been treating or are considering treating to look closely at the insecticide labels to determine which products can be used on wheat.
“Our members are very concerned about planting wheat with the number of grasshoppers active right now,” said Steelee Fischbacher, director of policy and marketing at the Texas Wheat Producers Association in Amarillo. “Many farmers are considering delaying their typical seeding date, but it will be difficult to make that decision if timely rains occur.
” Farmers who are planning on seeding early for grazing will definitely be looking at options for spraying which will add an expense to the crop. We have heard reports of grasshoppers completely eliminating fields of volunteer wheat,” she said.
The grasshoppers, as well as other insects, will be moving out of grasslands, ditches, fallow fields and summer crops such as corn and sorghum to the newer, tenderer green plants, the specialists said.