[Market-farming] Dealing with baby grasshoppers; long

Richard Moyer ramoyer at gmail.com
Sat Sep 8 18:59:07 EDT 2012


Pam,
When we had two acres, we put out Nolo bait, by spreading bran infested
with the grasshopper parasite 'Nosema'.  Semaspore appears to be another
brand of same.

Worked very well, beginning the next year, for multiple years.  From a
single treatment.  Am still impressed by the level of control.

Now with 70 acres, our flock of bourbon red turkeys are the best
grasshopper hunters of our various poultry.

When very young, we have hens who will take their poults each morning
(10-15 or so each) and patrol those areas with higher infestations. Some
hens can handle 20 or more, adopting from delinquent mothers.   We tend to
herd them to those areas with the most grasshoppers.  Grasshoppers tend to
come from grassy field (pasture, hayfield) edges into row crops, so one
management strategy is to keep grass strips of sufficient width very short
that surround row crops, and allow taller grass farther away, which is
grasshopper preferred habitat.  But if the only moist soil and tender young
plants is your baby fall veggies, they can migrate over.  May make sense
then to irrigate where you want them to stay, if rains are lacking.  Also,
mowing, haying and/or rotational grazing in the preferred grasshopper
habitat and poultry feeding area keeps young foliage coming on, hence
attractive to multiple critters in the farm ecosystem.

Not by design, but by sheer dumb luck our set up has the most turkeys
patrolling in the grassy strips and taller pasture/hayfield beside the row
crop areas, separated by a good fence that keeps turkeys out of crops once
they are juveniles.  We still need to train the turkeys to stay out of crop
areas once older, which requires someone on the farm all the time, during
that transition, someone with sharp ears and eyes.  (Yes, heritage turkeys
can be trained, at least in our flock.)

When and how we feed commercial mix also needs to be timed to maximize
grasshopper feeding.  That is, train turkeys to forage before filling up on
purchased feed.  We often feed just before they roost. Esp. as days get
shorter and nights longer and cooler.

In our breeding program, my daughter selects for those hens who stay with
their poults the longest, and are the best teachers of foraging for
grasshoppers, green matter and grass seed.  This helps entrain positive
behaviors and means if we steer the mothers in the right area, their young
follow.

Once the young leave their mothers, they become unruly teenagers with a
social order all their own.  (Stay out late, refuse to be seen with
parents, have no regard for their messes, trash the best vehicles, play in
the road, etc.)  But by this phase (closer to Thanksgiving), we've often
had a good killing frost, the crops are more established, so the
grasshoppers not so bad.

During critical points of grasshopper control, you could possibly import
some turkeys or other birds, to set grasshopper numbers back.  Helps to
have their owner around, or a turkey whisperer onsite to know how to manage
flock behavior.

Peacocks also work well as insect hunters; but they are so light as
juveniles and adults they tend to fly over any fence, any time and can be a
problem with tomatoes.

Don't know how well guineas would work, but they also are very mobile.

In summary, Nosema bait if no poultry, possibly both, or just poultry if
you are trying to raise poultry food onsite.

Richard Moyer
SW VA
Where the rains mean fall crop germination and many stunted weeds now going
to seed.
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