Answer: One of the oldest insect pests of grain crops is the grasshopper. This insect can be difficult to control with organic methods, because it can move from a control area to a non-control area and vice-versa. There has been some limited success with the use of Nosema locustae, a parasitic fungus that is combined with wheat bran bait for field use. Often, the results of Nosema are seen over several years of use, with mixed results when used on large areas. Several brand names of Nosema are available and information about them can be found in ATTRA's Biorationals: Ecological Pest Management Database.
Pest scouting is an essential part of using Nosema successfully. The most effective time to use it is when the grasshoppers are young (third instar stage). Usually, when you notice a large infestation, it is too late to use biological controls. Make sure you are watching for grasshoppers before they become a problem.
Mowing around grain fields may also help control grasshoppers. The shorter plants limit their food supply and make them more vulnerable to predators. The larger the field, the wider the mowed strip will need to be.
Chickens are voracious grasshopper eaters, and on smaller acreages chickens may be an effective means of grasshopper control. However, chickens do require adequate water, housing, and protection from predators. Mobile chicken coops, sometimes called "chicken tractors," provide protection and shelter, and also allow for easy movement to different parts of a field.
Learn more in these ATTRA publications:
Disease and Insect Management in Organic Small Grains
This publication outlines various strategies that make up a good organic disease and insect management plan, as well as to describe some specific diseases and insects that affect small grain crops. Although this publication pertains to various regions of the country, the main focus is on the Plains states—where most organic small grains are grown.
Grasshoppers – Botanical Control Formulations
This brief publication discusses the use of neem, garlic, mint, and eucalyptus to manage grasshoppers botanically.
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