Can a Compost Extract Kill Grasshoppers!

Well not always, but with a few specialized techniques we are able to produce a sprayable extract that controlled grasshoppers on our farm in 2023. The process is quite lengthy, and there are a lot of steps involved, but the end product contains high numbers of organisms that can digest the exoskeleton of the grasshoppers. I hope this discovery can help many people, especially our local communities!

This post is laid out in four main parts. What makes grasshoppers so tough to deal with? What does our biological product do to kill grasshoppers? How do we apply our custom protocol? What exactly did it take to put this solution together?

Why Grasshoppers are so Tough!

Although there is a lot of science involved, I will try to keep this to a relatable level. Grasshoppers have four things that are on their side and they work together to make a potent threat to our beautiful gardens in Southern Alberta. 

  1. Grasshoppers are able to digest simple sugars so they can handle eating a wider variety of plants. Some pests can be controlled with a sugar water spray, but this does not bother grasshoppers at all.
  2. Grasshoppers have tough armor exoskeletons and strong mouthparts that enable them to cause much more damage than other insects. They also have fewer natural predators once they are adults because they are harder for a song-bird to kill.
  3. Grasshoppers turn into locusts when they are old enough. This means that they can grow up in one place and then move into your garden when they run out of food where they started. This means that we need an effective control that can remain active all year.
  4. In our dry climate grasshoppers will produce as much as 4 generations in one year. The warm dry soils give ideal conditions for the eggs and nymph to grow fast. Most native predators of the eggs and nymph stage are only present in the spring.
Footstep Farms grasshopper treatment actually worked

How does our Biological Solution do its Work?

The list of different techniques needed to pull this together are explained later, but let's start with explaining how the grasshoppers die from our spray. There are three main biological pathways that help in our battle against these pesky insects. 

  1. Plant health support - Your plant is suffering and it will need some support to help it bounce back once the grasshoppers drop out of the situation. We like to add some Kelp, Molasses and Humic acids for this. The compost extract also contains a diverse mix of plant supportive biology that will help your plants heal and continue more robustly.
  2. Microbes kill the grasshoppers - Entomopathogenic Fungi are organisms that are able to kill insects and digest their exoskeleton. Our custom extract contains high numbers of these organisms as well as bacterial organisms that can degrade the grasshopper's hard outer shell. Together the bacterial and fungal friends will invade the pest, and kill them before they have a chance to procreate. The benefit of this biological approach is that the natural organism will remain in your garden to continue to kill grasshoppers that move in throughout the year.
  3. Boost plant immunity - Many plants are able to produce protective chemicals to make themselves unpalatable to insect pests. This can be a very fast and effective mechanism when your plants are healthy. The presence of chitinase (a chitin bi-product) will signal the plants to begin producing their own protective chemical.

How do you apply this Biological Solution?

In the 2023 growing season we were able to control our grasshoppers within three weeks from our first time spraying. Throughout the rest of the summer we never saw any young grasshoppers which means we were preventing future generations on our acreage. Below are our recommendations for your yard and garden.

  • Apply at least 2 times per year, and 2-3 weeks apart. Even if one application will work to kill the grasshoppers, the plant boosting benefits from the second application will help your garden rebound strongly.
  • Begin applying when the grasshoppers are large enough to be high up in the plant.
  • Spray at night when the grasshoppers are resting.
  • Spray any place in your yard that you notice there are grasshoppers. Direct contact will improve the results of the application.
  • Spray all your plants to get the health benefits for their growth.
  • Any leftover spray can be put on your compost pile as a diverse inoculant.

We are hoping to have our extract available in a ready to spray form. We will post a schedule of times that we will be making batches. We hope to be able to meet in common areas in our nearby towns.

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What are the Building Block Techniques

Natural Farming inputs that led to the grasshopper control at Footstep Farms

The process that we use includes parts of several biological techniques from all over the world, which are explained here:

  1. In Korean Natural Farming there is a technique known as an IMO (Indigenous Micro-Organisms) collection to harvest native fungi that are locally adapted to thrive in the job of decomposition. We use several collections of these native microbes with this technique as one of the input ingredients for our biologically diverse extract.
  2. Worm castings are one of the most diverse composts available to most gardeners. The red wiggler composting worm provides many beneficial bacteria that are able to help support your plant health when it is fighting off the insect pressures.
  3. Mealworm frass is a source of chitin that we include at high rates in our composting stage of production. As well as containing chitin, the frass also contains digestive organisms that produce chitinase (a plant immunity booster). We use mealworm frass as our primary Nitrogen source to help the compost heat up for the early stages.
  4. Anaerobic fermentation is one of the quickest ways to break down many complex organic molecules. We use fermentation (basically "pickling") to prepare any fresh food scraps that we feed to the worms. This allows us to be confident that the final product has more available nutrients in a form that will not harm the plants when it is sprayed on the garden.
  5. Inoculated composting is a process of taking microbial inoculation from a previous batch of compost and using it to start the new batch. We use this technique to help speed the process up, and to improve the chance that it will be successful. We also use dead grasshoppers that we collect throughout the season as a way of inoculating our compost with the exact microbes that killed that grasshopper.
  6. Compost spiking is the final technique that is used where our goal is to brew up high numbers of beneficial microbe groups. We start with our highly bio-diverse worm castings that have been inoculated with successful biology from last year and from our local IMO collections. We use this as the base for a final fermentation where fresh material is decomposed very rapidly. We then extract our spray when this process is in full swing.

In the future I hope to lay out all of the steps in chronological order, but I feel that at this stage it would be better to have others work with these building blocks and come up with their own innovations. For the best results in our region we need to have a variety of different processes whose final results will vary from each other and increase the total ecological benefit.


For the nerds among us there is PLENTY to dig into! 
For the gardeners there is a natural biological pest management solution available for 2024.

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