Here be grasshoppers

The farmers are not having an easy year. There are less hail insurance claims in the three Prairie provinces then normal for this time of year. Unfortunately, there is more drought.

The Canadian Crop Hail Association said in its regular report that "having crops behind normal development in most areas has also limited any damage."

There have only been 28 hail claims in Alberta as of July 1. These arose from storms June 15-18 around Red Deer, Penhold, Drumheller, Lomond and Iron Springs. Last year at this time, there had been about 400 claims.

Saskatchewan has had approximately 300 hail claims filed. Last year, there were about 1,000 claims by this point in time. This is due to small amounts of hail, that have not caused extensive damage.

Manitoba has had about 220 hail claims filed in Manitoba. This is down from last year's average level of approximately 400.

The Manitoba claims have come from the south. Claims have been filed from around Crystal City, Manitou, Deloraine, Waskada and Boissevain. Also, the Hamiota and Brandon areas saw hail damage from storms on June 26-28.

Drought conditions have affected a large portion of Alberta. Saskatchewan is dry in the west-central and northwest areas.

Grasshopper infestations tend to follow a drought. There is concern about grasshoppers invading the Alberta Peace River zone, the southeast, and the southwest of Edmonton.

Alberta's Agriculture and Rural Department has warned of an elevated grasshopper infestation risk in 2009. This department advised that the extended hot fall will give adequate time for the mother grasshoppers to lay eggs in the infestation-prone areas. Other factors aside from warm weather identified as conducive to a grasshopper surge include south-facing slopes and light soils.

Dry weather has affected the crop's quality and Alberta Agriculture's Pest Surveillance Branch head, Paul Laflamme, cautions against spraying to kill the grasshoppers unless their volume is high. There is concern that Alberta farmers will have a likely grasshopper infestation following the drought.

The insurance answer to drought is to file a claim. As of July 1st, 2009, over 1,400 claims have been filed by Alberta farmers. In order to assist the farmers, the province waived inspection to quicken the settlement of crop insurance policy claims.

The cattle industry is likely to be affected by the drought. If the fields are not producing the crop for the winter feed, then it will have to be purchased. Grazing land is parched and of course, this will affect the cattle. As if "mad cow disease" wasn't enough!