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Wheat & Small Grains Blythe Howell

Mormon Crickets are on the March in Douglas County!

A large mormon cricket on man's leg.

Despite their name and characteristic male chirping, Mormon crickets are not true crickets, but rather shield-backed katydids. These pests got their name by endangering the livelihood of Mormon pioneers in the mid-1800s. Pest outbreaks are common and typically occur when conditions are favorable for their development. Some outbreaks can last for up to 20 years. Mormon crickets are voracious feeders that attack a wide variety of field and forage crops, small grains, grapes and fruit trees.

Mormon cricketMormon crickets are large insects (1.5-2 inches) with variable coloration, from beautiful green or purple coloration of solitary individuals to dull black, brown and red coloration of swarming individuals. Females have a long ovipositor present at the end of the body that is used for laying eggs. Although adult insects do have ornamental wings, they are flightless. However, this doesn’t stop them from covering large distances during the swarming phase (up to 1.5 miles per day, 50 miles per season), eating everything in their path and having devastating effects on agricultural production.

Mormon crickets usually have one generation per year, with some exceptions at higher elevations where they require 2 years to complete the life cycle. Adults mate in early summer, after which females lay eggs in the ground. Each female can lay over 100 eggs. Eggs hatch the following spring (March-May) when soil temperatures reach 40 °F. Nymphs pass through seven instars (60-90 days) before reaching maturity and 10-14 days later mating occurs. Nymphs resemble adults in appearance but are smaller and lack wings. Adults feed throughout the growing season.

Although Mormon cricket outbreaks are common, populations tend to build up fairly slow and are easily predictable. Insect monitoring is necessary for a timely risk assessment and the development of effective control measures. More information on pest activity and risk areas can be found on the USDA APHIS official website (

For information on how to properly control these pests contact your local County Extension office. Dale Whaley is an extension specialist for Douglas County. He can be reached by email ( or by phone (509-754-8531).

Insect samples or pictures can be sent for proper identification to David Crowder, Associate Professor in the Department of Entomology at Washington State University ( and Ivan Milosavljević, Research Associate ( in the Department of Entomology at Washington State University.

For more information on Mormon crickets use these useful links:

Organic Case Studies Publication

The latest bulletin published by the Small Grains Team is PNW683 – Organic Small Grain Production in the Pacific Northwest: A Collection of Case Studies. The publication includes 12 case studies of organic grain farms that encompass three precipitation zones of the rainfed Inland Northwest, plus farms using full- and supplemental irrigation.

The farmers interviewed for the case studies discussed their philosophy for organic farming, methods of transition to organic production, crop rotation, soil fertility, seedbed preparation, plus weed and pest management. They also discussed marketing methods and techniques that had worked well (or not) on their farms. In addition, they offered tidbits of advice for farmers considering organic production.

As the case studies are comprised of individual’s experiences and opinions, they do not constitute formal recommendations by WSU Extension. Each case study does include complementary and pertinent information on the National Organic Rules and Certification.

PNW683 is available, free of charge. Go to the Organic Production button on the left side of the page, then click on Case Studies. The online version of the document includes hyperlinks to other sections or websites. These links are lost in the printed version.

If you encounter any problems with these links or when downloading files, please contact Blythe Howell at as this publication is unique in its size and complexity.

The case studies were authored by Louise Lorent, Associate in Research; Diana Roberts, PhD; and Ian Burke, PhD. Funds were provided by a grant from OREI (Organic Research and Extension Initiative) and a Hatch Project.

For questions regarding the case studies, contact Diana Roberts at

Soil Acidification Video Series

Awareness of soil acidification has been growing in the inland Pacific Northwest (iPNW). Farmers, Researchers, and Industry Professionals have been finding that this emerging regional issue has generated more questions than answers. Soil acidification can affect crops and nutrient availability, as well as pathogens and herbicide use. Growers faced with low pH soil can be challenged by the question of what to do about it.

WSU Extension has released a series of three short videos featuring growers and local researchers explaining the challenges, symptoms, causes, and implications for farm management that are associated with soil pH decline.

“Soil Acidity- What it looks like” this video focuses on the symptomology of crops being affected by low soil pH, and other factors that may confound identification of acidic soil.

“Soil Acidity- How it happens” this video focuses on why the Palouse region is experiencing a decline in soil pH, and how it is often seen distributed through the landscape and soil profile.

“Soil Acidity- managing it on the farm” this video discusses how low pH soil can affect management decisions on the farm, and ways of mitigating the impact of soil acidity on crops.

For questions contact Carol McFarland at

Results of the 2014 Survey of Northwestern Organic Producers

Organic small grains farmers have lamented the lack of information available on organic management of weeds and soil fertility. “My experience, once we went organic we basically fell off the radar of all local agronomists or their employees,” one grower in Oregon said, when asked about the availability of information for organic growers in the Northwest. In order for university researchers to gain a better understanding of the challenges, management practices, and research needs associated with organic small grains producers in the inland Northwest, we conducted a survey of all organic grain and livestock producers in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. The results of this survey can spur interest in organic grains research among university researchers and Extension agents and help them to identify research projects, all with the aim of increasing the productivity of organic production in the inland Northwest

Find a summary of the survey results (updated on 10/07/2015) here: Executive Summary 2014 Survey.

How to Calculate Growing Degree Days

You can calculate Fahrenheit Growing Degree Days (F-GDD) from weather data on the internet.

  • Visit If a page will not load, try refreshing it. 
  • Click on Map Index. This will bring you to an interactive map of the U.S.
  • Click on your state. A pop-up box will appear showing interfaces available.
  • In individual networks, select METAR, a NOAA site.  Now you will see the Heading, “Degree-day and Phenology Model Calculator.”
  • The first task is “Select Model”.  Hit the down-arrow on this bar and go to the bottom of the drop-down list to “winter wheat Karow et al 1993” and select that.
  • Next set the lower threshold to 32 and the upper threshold to 130.  Ignore the box asking for Calc. method.
  • Now enter your start (planting) date or, if you dusted the crop in, enter the date of the first significant rain after planting.
  • Then enter end date, for example: Sept. 25, Nov. 11.  Depending on your date choices select same year or following year.
  • Ignore the boxes asking for Forecast zip code and Calc. selection.
  • Now go down into the table and find a weather station near you, then in that line, select the correct year and, if needed, hit “CALC.”
  • Cumulative F-GDD will be shown in tabular form with plant milestones.

For more information contact Tami Johlke, USDA-ARS Biological Research Technician.

2014 Dryland Organic Farming Research Review and Farm Tour

WSU hosted a Dryland Organic Farming Research Review and Farm Tour on July 9th, 2014. Growers and researchers presented their recent experiences with dryland organic production of small grains, forages and pulses. Topics covered included using composted manure for wheat production, companion cropping vs. cover cropping using legumes, profitable transition strategies, soil quality issues and a survey of organic practices in the region. Growers Owen Jorgensen and Eric Nelson shared their first-hand experience with organic production of small grains.

Lunch was followed by a tour of the Boyd Dryland Organic Farm. Associate professor Ian Burke and graduate student Nicole Tautges showed their research plots and presented recent results. Featured research included a comparison of cropping rotations for grain production, forage and grain triticale production and the use of precision in-row tillage for weed control.

A winter wheat plot at the Boyd Organic Farm. 9 different rotation systems are being evaluated for organic production.
A winter wheat plot at the Boyd Organic Farm. 9 different rotation systems are being evaluated for organic production.
Nicole Tautges presents her research on intercropping grains with peas for nitrogen supply and using precision in-row cultivation.
Nicole Tautges presents her research on intercropping grains with peas for nitrogen supply and using precision in-row cultivation.
Washington State University