By CATHY MOUNCE
Register Staff Writer
Despite the Texas heat, grasshoppers and soil conditions, the Gainesville Elm Street Community Garden boxes are filled with greenery as the Volunteers in Service to Others (VISTO) sponsored garden is a place where seasoned gardeners or first timers learn how to grow their own food and feed their family.
“We have sent some soil samples to be tested to determine what nutrients and supplements we might need to add to the soil for next year’s gardens,” VISTO community garden liaison Susanne Yeager said. “The gardens are now filled with hot weather plants such as tomatoes, beans, okra and peppers.”
Yeager also said that the continuing plague of grasshoppers in the North Texas area has found its way to downtown Gainesville. The struggling garden boxes have been hit hard by the insects, she said.
Summer is prime time for grasshopper populations in the north Texas area.
According to Dr. Lisa Bellows, Chair of Science and Math Initiatives at North Central Texas College, there are two primary control approaches to grasshoppers: Biological and chemical.
“Two biological insecticides are effective on grasshoppers,” Bellows said. “Beauveria bassiana is an insect-attacking fungus and sold under several product labels which can be purchased online or at organic gardening stores.”
“Nosema locustae sold as Nolo Bait and Semaspore is a protozoan that, upon ingestion and sporulation in the gut, infects fat tissues of the grasshopper,” she continued.
Bellows said wildlife, pets, birds, earthworms and most beneficial insects are not harmed by Nosema or Beauveria.
Biological control methods have proven to be slower acting than conventional insecticides and can take four to six weeks to kill grasshoppers. Bellows suggested that it is best to plan these treatments in spring to avoid the high onslaught of insects in the summer months.
She also said that guinea fowl or chickens roaming freely are very effective in reducing the grasshopper count.
There are a number of chemical applications effective to get rid of grasshoppers. They include acephate (Orthene), azadirachtin (Neem), bifenthrin (Talstar), carbaryl (Sevin), diazinon, malathion, permethrin (Astro) pyrethrin and probably most effective in targeting grasshopers is cyfluthrin (Tempo).
Bellows said that although most of these chemicals are available at local farm stores, most of these chemicals are not labeled for food crops so directions must be followed carefully.
Tempo is considered to be the most effective immediate control of grasshoppers and is sold as a concentrate. It can be reconstituted in a spray to be applied to plants and effected areas. Tempo should not be used on vegetables and is harmful to pets and birds that consume grasshoppers treated with it.
A natural organic method suggested on the Tomatoville webpage used a mixture of molasses diluted with water since grasshoppers like something sweet.
The concoction is placed in pans similar to the size of those used to change oil. After setting the pan in the garden, Ivory soap is squirted along the top of the solution and stirred slowly.
According to the tomato site, the grasshoppers will scent the solution and try to land in it but will sink to the bottom and drown. A minnow net can be used to remove the drowned grasshoppers from the pan.
By CATHY MOUNCE
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