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Central West Queensland since 1923
Central West Queensland

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11 April, 2021

Grasshopper plague gains govt response

AS THE grasshopper plague in the central west has seen much-needed pasture for winter completely destroyed, the state government has approved a chemical to help control the situation.

By Emily Blue Richards

The Queensland Government and a grasshopper looking at bigger solutions in the central west region. PHOTO: Supplied.

Property and business owner from Simstock Rural Agencies Richard Simpson told The Longreach Leader that recent rain had quietened down the grasshoppers from their peak but still the odd ones were hopping around. 

“Small immature grasses and herbages have been eaten to the ground to make pastures look like a desert,” he said. 

“Some paddocks have seen total decimation with no feed left for stock.” 

Mr Simpson said there was now hope that the properties would bounce back sooner rather than later. 

“Grasses will come back once the hoppers completely disappear, but mostly only in the country where there is still a moisture profile in the ground,” he said. 

“Recent rain appears to have decreased the population of the grasshoppers and they are now of less density in most areas in our region.” 

To combat the remaining population of hoppers, a chemical treatment was recently approved for use on pastures.  

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) issued an Emergency Use Permit for the use of chemical products containing fenitrothion as a control option for grasshoppers in the area. 

The permit will allow landholders to legally use the specified chemical in accordance with the approved use instructions on the permit and product labels, noting it is a legal obligation to follow the permit and label instructions.  

Affected landholders will need to carefully assess the benefit, risks and cost of applying the chemical, taking into account the direct cost of the chemical. 

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) spokesperson said  

product alternatives could also be used for property owners in areas close to rivers or bee populations. 

AgForce Queensland’s Glenn Weller said some of the properties would not recover until next wet season. 

“It’s ranging from annoying to devastating; most affected people are in the middle somewhere,” he said. Mr Weller explained the only other “ag-chem" products registered for grasshopper control in Queensland non-crop areas was carbaryl. 

“Often it is not feasible or cost-effective to spray grasshopper outbreaks with insecticide, especially once they are on the wing,” he said. 

“[It's been] up and down and very patchy – Winton to Muttaburra and north of there has been badly affected.”  

Landholders are encouraged to take part in a DAF online grasshopper survey to help identify the current species, their densities and distribution, and assess the impacts. 

Data collected will help determine the scale of the problem and better assess the economic impact.   

The survey is open until April 30.  

Experts say little is known about grasshoppers, including their ecology and life cycles.  

The Queensland Government also recently formed a Grasshopper Working Group in response to the high populations being seen across the state. 

The group, including representatives from the Australian Plague Locust Commission and National Drought and Flood Agency, will work to identify possible management options and ensure a coordinated and effective response. 

Local property owner Rod Shannon told The Longreach Leader he suspected weather events may be connected to the spike in grasshoppers. 

“I keep looking at the areas that are copping the grasshoppers and it seems to be the same people who got the tail end of the cyclones last year,” he said. 

“I just wonder if because of that really serious flooding rain, whether that is a trigger for serious grasshopper problems. 

“I wonder if we will correlate a weather event before all these grasshoppers?”  

Glen Rural Traders owner Judy Glen said her customers in Winton and Muttaburra were most impacted.“I have seen pictures where there seemed to be to be as many as 10 different species of grasshoppers,” she said. 

“I know that the government has just released some chemicals that people can use, but I don’t how people can effectively apply that to this situation, with planes is a start but it might not be enough,” she said. 

Winton councillor Cathy White manages the  pest management portfolio and has been working with producers in the Winton area on the grasshopper issues.  

Any quotes from Cathy we can include?  

Central West producers are encouraged to collect photos of grasshoppers on their property and report sightings to 13 25 23. 

Impacted producers can complete the 2021 grasshopper impact survey to assist in determining the full scale of the problem online at  www.surveymonkey.com/r/2021grasshoppers 


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