Plagues of grasshoppers are attacking farmland in western Queensland for the third year in a row – sparking calls for better control measures.
And while damage to pastures in 2020 cost producers an average of $300,000 – with some landholders losing a staggering $1million – this year AgForce fears the economic impact could be even worse, with experts declaring the magnitude of this invasion has not been seen since the 1970s.
Now the State Opposition is calling on governments to step up control efforts by giving graziers better access to insecticides to prevent future invasions.
Currently, there are very few chemicals to fight grasshoppers that are registered for use in Queensland.
What’s more, landholders are on their own when it comes to biosecurity. Because grasshoppers are not declared a pest there is no sole organisation taking responsibility for grasshopper surveillance and management (and even less collaboration since Qld’s Biosecurity Act 2014 came into effect in 2016).
But there is some hope. A 2020 survey by Future Beef Grazing Futures staff in Longreach identified further targeted research needed to establish a better understanding of the life cycle and ecology of the grasshoppers, enabling producers to be proactive rather than reactive.
A forecast tool would determine the triggers for grasshopper population booms, and producers could make management adjustments before their pastures were attacked.
Queensland Government’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has announced it will do a 2021 survey on grasshopper impact, and is also forming an internal grasshopper working group.
In the meantime, producers may have to rely on a cold, frosty winter and a build-up of parasites and predators to reduce insect populations this year.