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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pests Are Descending On Parched Colorado Farms

Pests Are Descending On Parched Colorado Farms - Colorado farmers already plagued by a debilitating drought are now fighting the arrival of crop-eating insects who like the hot, dry weather that has settled over the state and elsewhere.

"It's to the point where we just feel beat up," said Harry Strohauer, who has already let 500 acres of corn on his 3,500-acre Weld County spread die to conserve water.
Grasshoppers, an annual threat to corn and other plants, are back this year in huge numbers in some areas of Colorado, say agriculture experts.
That includes Strohauer's farm, which also grows potatoes for local retailers. On Thursday, as Strohauer walked down a row of dying corn stalks, swarms of grasshoppers leaped around his head after tearing holes through what used to be a viable crop. In another field, the pests have gnawed entire rows of corn to the ground.
Strohauer said he and other farmers who are watching their once green fields fade away face the same pricey dilemma.
"Do you spend as much as $35 to $45 an acre to spray your fields that are dying, or do you forget about it but guarantee your fields won't stand a chance at all of surviving?" he said.
Just eight grasshoppers can eat as much as one cow, according to experts. But they aren't even the biggest problem this year.
Western corn root worm are showing up in heavy numbers, feeding on corn roots and heavily damaging the plant.
Spider mites, meanwhile, attack the leaves of corn and other plants, sucking out their nutrients and killing them.
"We've seen both of these in higher numbers than normal," said Ron Meyer, Colorado State University extension agent for a five-county region in northeast Colorado.
"They are all directly related to the weather," Meyer said. "The mild winter didn't control the pests and we had a warm, dry spring, which means they came out early in bigger numbers."
That puts farmers in the tough position of spraying their fields with insecticides, even though the fields are wilting from lack of water, he said.
Also hurting farmers is the knowledge that corn prices are approaching an all-time high. Prices for December delivery settled at $7.78 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade on Thursday. The record price back in June 2008 was $7.99.
"But everyone is having trouble producing a good crop," Meyer said.
Rick Davis, who farms 600 acres of irrigated corn near Julesburg, said he's seen a few nests of spider mites in his plants, but he's been aggressive in treating his corn before the mites hatch.
One reason spider mites become so difficult to control is that the insecticides used to destroy them also destroy their natural enemies, Davis said.
The mites and the root worms are also incredibly adaptable to human controls.
"No matter what man does, Mother Nature has a way of getting around it," Davis said.
The drought and insects are just one more frustration for farmers in Weld County, who are limited in how much groundwater they can pump for irrigation due to a 2006 Colorado Water Court decision.
This is especially galling in a county that is Colorado's largest agricultural producer and eighth largest producer in the United States, said Strohauer.

Pests Are Descending On Parched Colorado Farms Rating: 4.5 Diposkan Oleh: Arm Aritn


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