A grasshopper clings to a long blade of grass at Police Point Park on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021.NEWS PHOTO RYAN MCCRACKEN

Original Published on Aug 05, 2022 at 10:19

By SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

According to http://www.alberta.ca/grasshopper-forecast, “In southern Alberta, dry summers are resulting in increasing grasshopper numbers. This is especially true in the counties south of, and bordering Highway 1. Populations are increasing in the dryer areas along the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, too. The 2021 growing season coupled with a long, warm fall was ideal for grasshopper egg laying.”

Grasshoppers are divided into two major subgroups, and the short-horned grasshoppers are responsible for the majority of economic loss to crops. The other group is long-horned grasshoppers, katydids and crickets. Some species were abundant in certain hotspots but the only one whose numbers were forecasted to increase for 2022 was the two-striped grasshopper.

Staff from Cypress County were out Thursday doing a grasshopper survey.

Agricultural supervisor Lisa Sulz explained the county has “to get a survey done in each municipality. We do approximately 110 each year to look for the species of grasshopper and a number. We aren’t looking for damage to crops, we are just trying to get an idea of how many and what species are here to use as a forecast for populations in the next year.”

Just as with last year, numbers vary in different parts of the county. County staff were down south of Elkwater, toward the U.S. border, where grasshoppers weren’t overly abundant. Dunmore-Medicine Hat area has more but the actual numbers weren’t available.

“Just walking through the ditches,” said Sulz, “they are everywhere so it’s not surprising, especially with the hot, dry conditions.”

Nichole Neubauer of Neubauer Farms reports lots of issues with disease, such as wheat streak mosaic and Stemphylium Blight (lentils).

“Insect damage this year from grasshoppers, aphids and flea beetles will have significant impact on our yield,” stated Neubauer.

On top of that, drought conditions have returned after the promising rains of June. Predicted high winds today, advised Neubauer, could potentially shell out peas and lentil crops that are mature, and the dry conditions will hamper the ability of non-irrigated cereals to finish filling out their heads.

Mild winters, such as the one of 2021/2022, are not friends to growers. The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a cold winter, and Neubauer is all for it as the cold season is what breaks the disease and insect cycles.

“We need snow, lots of snow, and cold temperatures to reset,” added Neubauer.

Cypress County officials say the July 18 storm has damaged things like irrigation pivots, but for the most part it sounds like crops stood up to the extremely high winds.– News Photo Collin Gallant

County crops face drought, but held up to storm

By SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

While life was looking good for growers following the June rains, things took a turn for the worse when the hot weather hit in July and as it continues into August. The storm of July 18 did more damage to some fields than others, with the causes of the damage varying.

Jeffrey Dowling, director of municipal services for Cypress County, explained the county has been focusing attention along Highway 523 and has not officially been out into fields and crops for analysis or evaluation.

“What we’ve seen from just driving by the scene and the sites is, surprisingly, it would appear the crops were able to withstand the force of the wind and the elements from that date (July 18). It appears the crops are still standing up.”

The storm covered vast areas on the west side of Medicine Hat and continued across the river into the Redcliff area.

“We haven’t done any pinpoint accuracy type of evaluations or analysis of where the weather pattern went through. Certainly, at the site where it has officially been declared a tornado, the biggest problem is two-fold.”

The first is debris lying in fields and the second is damaged pivots.

Debris has been scattered throughout crop areas and would need to be removed before any farm machinery can get into the field.

“One of the challenges is the debris that is scattered, and there is plenty of it in amongst the fields. The second thing is some of the irrigation pivots were twisted and pulled down. I noticed some of the irrigation pivots have been repaired or sections of pivot towers have been replaced but other pivots are still down. From a production point of view that is an issue as well,” added Dowling.

Other weather events, such as hail or severe rainstorms, push crops down, affecting the yield and making it difficult to harvest them. Dowling said there are reports of hail damage on the north side of the river in Cypress County but was uncertain of the extent.

Dowling wanted to extend his thoughts to those affected,

“Cypress County is very empathetic to every property, homeowner or landowner that was affected by the storm, whether it was right at the tornado site or in the path of the storm. We recognize they’ve experienced tremendous loss and damage and it will take awhile for them to get back to what they had.”

This item reprinted with permission from the News, Medicine Hat, Alberta