Grasshoppers ravage pastures in western Queensland, graziers left searching for answers | Ralph-Lauren

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Graziers in western Queensland are facing another period of destocking as large numbers of grasshoppers eat their way through the region for the third year in a row.

The insects, which are not believed to be locusts, last year damaged a large part of the area around Winton, Julia Creek, Hughenden, Muttaburra, Longreach and Blackall.

With rain over the Christmas-New Year period and storms at the start of February, the grasshoppers are back and have started eating pastures.

Bob Elliott from Belmont Station near Winton said entire paddocks had been decimated in a matter of weeks.

“There are a lot of places that are having a lot of trouble dealing with them,” he said.

A lush green field on the edge of a lagoon.
A lagoon on Llewellyn Station was full of water and surrounded by green pasture after rain.(Supplied: Lyn Owens)
A dried-up waterway with a few streaks of green grass on a cattle station.
Weeks later, grasshoppers had decimated pastures on the entire station.(Supplied: Lyn Owens)

Mr Elliott said he had never seen the insects gather like this, and because the outbreaks were scarce, little was known about them.

“We just don’t know what’s going to get rid of them,” he said.

“My best guess is that we just need a really wet year to get rid of them, the big number at least.”

Mayor calls for government intervention

Winton Shire Mayor Gavin Baskett has been helping graziers look for solutions to the grasshoppers over the past three years.

Cr Baskett said a concerted effort between state and federal governments, similar to the Australian Plague Locust Commission, was needed to stop future outbreaks.

“It’s not only in Winton, it’s in other shires as well and it’s starting to become a much wider issue every year.”

A grasshopper sits on a plant at Ilfracombe in central Queensland, February 24, 2015.
Little is known about the grasshoppers in the impacted areas. (File photo)(Supplied: Tracey Walker)

Cr Baskett said he was seeking help from the National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency, state Agriculture Minister Mark Furner, and federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.

Mr Littleproud’s office said it was a state responsibility, while a spokesman for Mr Furner said his department was surveying landholders about grasshoppers and the state’s main focus was on plague locusts.

Little known about the grasshoppers

While many were searching for immediate answers to the problem, Myron Zalucki from the University of Queensland said little was known about the insects in the impacted area.

Professor Zalucki said most of the research into insect plagues was in areas that grew high-value crops.

Grasshoppers in a bumper bar
Grasshoppers have been sighted this year in large parts of western Queensland.(ABC Rural: Eric Barker)

“People who grow wheat and crops further south, if they’re being devastated by locust outbreaks, then there’s a lot of value in those,” he said.

“We don’t tend to look at pastures the same way, although if you tell that to a grazier, they will probably have a very different view.”

Professor Zalucki said for effective research to be done in western Queensland, the insects’ life cycle would need to be studied over a long time period of time.

“It’s just not something that turns on immediately; it might take a year or two to build up and maybe there’s something you can do to take the edge off that.”

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