Herald JournalHerald Journal, Aug. 18, 2003

Farmers battling more bugs due to dry conditions

By Lynda Jensen

Aphids and leafhoppers are finding local crop fields to their liking, with local farmers spending more money to spray for the pests this year.

The dry weather is not helping, since leafhoppers thrive in arid weather in alfalfa fields, commented Deb Crowley of Wright Way Ag in Howard Lake.

It varies from field to field, she added.

Aphids, which prefer soybeans, can double their numbers in two days under ideal conditions, according to the University of Minnesota Extension Service.

"This is the first bad infestation (from aphids)," Crowley said.

"They're just thick," commented farmer Stan Diers. Diers cut his crop and the bugs were left behind in the field as well as being stuck in his machinery, he said.

The soybean aphid was only discovered and identified as an exotic species in the United States in 2000.

The last week of July was considered good conditions for soybean aphids, since the pest exploded across farmer fields, according to the Extension Service.

"We're spraying more," said Kay Bakeberg, who farms with her husband George southeast of Howard Lake.

A shot of rain would certainly help, since one to two inches of precipitation will generally kill aphids, Crowley said.

The last time there was a drought was 1988 and 1989, Crowley said.

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