Researchers to try and control grasshopper population

Posted: Sunday, July 02, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Most tourists to the Delta Junction area are encouraged to stay as long as they want, but these visitors are getting the cold shoulder.

Dennis Fielding, a research entomologist with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, is after grasshoppers that are causing trouble in Delta's agricultural areas. In some years, the grasshoppers cause considerable crop damage. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a series of outbreaks laid whole fields to waste.

''We are trying to figure out what kind of conditions are promoting the grasshoppers,'' Fielding said from his office at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. ''We're trying to prevent large-scale outbreaks.''

Fielding has two workers in the Delta Junction area counting grasshoppers and another two helping with other aspects of the research. They started in early June and will spend 12 weeks gathering information. They are also monitoring the grasshopper populations at Fairbanks International Airport and other Fairbanks-area locations.

''We want to know where the hoppers are coming from,'' Fielding said.

It will be entomologist Stefan Jaronski's job to determine a natural means of controlling the grasshoppers.

Jaronski could introduce a grasshopper disease or promulgate an existing disease to help reduce their number.

''There are a couple of fungal diseases that look promising,'' Fielding said.

While the grasshopper problem isn't overwhelming this year, the research could forestall future problems.

''Anticipation and prevention is good,'' Fielding said. ''We'll be ready.''

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