Stress From Weather
This year bermudagrass greenup across Alabama was delayed because of unfavorable weather conditions in the late spring. Producers saw a warm February and early March followed by freezing temperatures in April and early May. These conditions led to producers seeing delayed first hay cuttings and reduced yield production.
These conditions not only delayed greenup but in some cases, they caused permanent damage to bermudagrass stands. Stands that have lasting damage are those that were overgrazed, harvested too close or frequently, or were not properly fertilized with lime, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
When fields are consistently over grazed and put through nutrient deficiencies, the stand becomes weaker. Over time, this makes it more difficult for the stand to bounce back from a drought or other unfavorable weather conditions. While weather can be unpredictable, performing regular soil testing and applying proper soil fertility and harvest/grazing management practices will help stands survive stressful conditions and be productive for years to come.
Stress From Grasshoppers
Bermudagrass is under further stress this year from high populations of grasshoppers around the state. Grasshoppers are voracious foliar feeders and will feed on bermudagrass and many other grasses.
Grasshoppers overwinter as eggs in the soil and begin to hatch in late spring and early summer. Eggs are laid in weedy areas, fallow fields, ditches, and hayfields. Not all eggs hatch into grasshopper nymphs at the same time, so producers will see multiple life stages in a field at once.
Nymphs look just like adults but are smaller and do not have wings. Nymphs are less mobile and will feed close to the hatching site. It takes approximately 40 to 60 days for a nymph to become an adult, depending on weather and other environmental conditions.
Grasshoppers thrive in hot, dry weather. A warm fall and winter can allow them more time for feeding and reproduction, which will increase populations the following year. Alabama had excellent conditions in the summer of 2019 for grasshoppers to survive and lay eggs for the 2020 season. This is one of the reasons producers are currently experiencing high grasshopper pressure.
Scouting and Control
If growers haven’t already, now is the time to scout for grasshoppers in fields. If control measures are necessary, it is important to do them while the grasshoppers are still young and small. Larger, older grasshoppers are more difficult to kill.
A good weed control plan will help reduce grasshopper populations. Since the newly hatched nymphs are unable to fly, they will need a food source close to their emergence site. Controlling summer weeds will reduce food availability for nymphs.
There are several products available for grasshopper control in bermudagrass and other forages. If growers are seeing high levels of foliage lost (more than 50 percent in some areas), chemical control may be warranted. Multiple applications may be necessary if the product has a a short residual time span and/or the field is re-infested from a non-treated area. Growers should consider using an insect growth regulator if there are a high numbers of nymphs in the population. Consult the Pastures and Forage Crop IPM Guide for a list of approved products. Always read and follow the instructions on the label before application.