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Canola Oil and Fungal Mixture May Help Stop
a Hopper Scourge By Amy Spillman
November 13, 2002
During the summer of 2002, grasshopper infestations in the
western United States were some of the worst reported in more than 60 years.
The insects' numbers swelled so high that the governor of Utah declared a state
of agricultural emergency.
Currently, chemicals such as carbaryl, diflubenzuron and
malathion are the only effective and economical insecticides on the market that
land managers can use to battle grasshopper infestations. Now, however,
scientists with the Agricultural Research
Service and University of
Wyoming-Laramie are studying what could become a less costly and more
environmentally friendly alternative--a mixture of a naturally occurring fungus
and canola oil.
Stefan Jaronski, a research entomologist at ARS'
Northern Plains Agricultural Research
Laboratory in Sidney, Mont., is collaborating with insect ecologist Jeff
Lockwood and others at the university in a large-scale evaluation of
Beauveria bassiana. The all-natural fungus is effective against
grasshoppers and is commercially produced, but it's also expensive, costing
between $16 and $32 per acre of treatment.
In earlier research, Lockwood discovered that grasshoppers are
attracted to canola oil, and Jaronski verified its potential to increase the
effectiveness of the Beauveria fungus in greenhouse tests. Now, the
scientists are coupling the fungus with a canola oil carrier and applying it to
alternate strips of land to determine whether the mixture can be effective
under field conditions. If it is, they will also determine how little of the
mixture is needed per acre for it to remain effective.
Both aerial and ground applications are being used in the
560-acre test, which began in the summer of 2002 and will end in 2004.
According to Jaronski, the first field trial has been very encouraging. If
their final results are also positive, an affordable biological treatment to
stop grasshopper infestations may be on the market in the not-too-distant
The researchers will be presenting the data they've collected so
far at the Entomological Society of
America annual meeting to be held November 17-20 in Fort Lauderdale,
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.