Brix Levels For Grasshopper Control

Progress report for FNC23-1389

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2023: $6,968.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Hiddendale Farm
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Glendon Philbrick
Hiddendale Farm
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Project Information

Description of operation:

Glendon Philbrick is a lifelong farmer who has transitioned to raising crops and vegetables organically. Glendon has either received or participated in grant funded research involving growing and evaluating new crops for the region, vegetables, hops, and weed management. The farm has roughly 200 acres of ground that are certified organic. There are additional acres as well. This includes native grasslands and are grazed using rotational grazing. Glendon has successfully controlled weeds with organic methods and improved the quality of the native grasslands he manages.
Glendon grows up to twenty different crops per year for seed production and has equipment to plant, harvest, and clean seed. Glendon has a BS in Finance and Masters in Management from Minot State University. Glendon is involved with teaching food preservation methods at Standing Rock through Sitting Bull College. Glendon is passionate about growing and preserving his own food, and participating in the movement for the preservation of seed.


Grasshoppers have plagued North America many times.  Most recently, grasshoppers have caused considerable damage in the Northern Great Plains in North Dakota and Montana since the drought of 2020 and 2021.  Despite normal rainfall in 2022 in many areas, the grasshoppers are thriving. Through observation and testing with a refractometer, one can assess that grasshoppers dislike and avoid plants with high brix levels.  This project aims to test methods for raising brix levels to a minimum of 12%  in several crops, including commodity crops, vegetables, and flowers, through various methods as a means to, not only stop grasshoppers from destroying crops, but to also improve soil health.

Project Objectives:

In an organic field, the following crops which have been plagued by grasshoppers at the growing site will be grown to test:

Alfalfa, oats, sweet corn, pop corn, heirloom tomato, two varieties of romaine lettuce, Danvers Half Long carrots, Carmen Sweet Pepper, borage, phacelia, safflower, soybean, Black Turtle Bean, spinach, onions, potatoes, cilantro, and hops.

The alfalfa, soybeans, and oats will be in a 32x32 foot plots with alleys to replicate a field trial.  The vegetables and flowers will be grown in square plots in organic approved plastic cover for weed suppression.  The plastic mulch will be applied at minimum three weeks prior to planting, preferably six weeks, depending on spring weather.  The square plots are to avoid creepage of other crops.

Five treatments will be used separately on each crop. The treatments include: Increasing the potassium to nitrogen ratio to a desired level according to soil health recommendation guidelines, applying humic and fulvic acids, applying amino acids, treating iron deficiencies, and treating calcium deficiencies through application of plant available calcium.  The goal of each treatment is to achieve a 12% brix level.  Through experience and discussion with researchers, 12% is the level at which insects find a plant undesirable. 

Numbered flags will separate and identify each treatment.  All treatments must be OMRI listed per USDA organic certification standards. Soil amendments will be applied after soil tests are conducted but prior to planting. The other three treatments will be applied after emergence, and again during the onsought of grasshoppers.  Foliar treatments will be applied again after significant rain or if irrigation washed the treatment off.  Brix will be tested after two weeks of plant growth for each treatment, and then once a week thereafter.  Data will be recorded and plants will be photographed.  Grasshopper damaged will be photographed and recorded throughout the season in an effort to compare brix levels to treatment outcome. Each crop will have a section with no treatment.

The experiment will be done over one growing season.


  1. Evaluate growth and brix levels in plants were the potassium to nitrogen levels are at recommended levels.
  2. Evaluate growth and brix levels in plants were humic and fulvic acids are applied.
  3. Evaluate growth and brix levels in plants were amino acids are applied.
  4. Evaluate growth and brix levels in plants were iron deficiencies are treated according to crop needs per soil test results.
  5. Evaluate growth and brix levels in plants were available calcium is applied.
  6. Evaluate grasshopper damage in each treatment area by brix level.
  7. Hold a field day later in the growing season
  8. Share results through Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society (NPSAS), Organic Seed Alliance (OSA), the Organic Broadcaster, and farm website.
  9. Contact Marbleseed, NPSAS, OSA, and EcoFarm regarding conference presentation opportunities.


Materials and methods:

The process for conducting research involved identifying soil amendments that could be applied either topically or through a foliar spray to increase brix levels in crops that grasshoppers eat.  The following OMRI approved amendments identified were: granular potassium, humic acid, amino acid, plant available calcium, and iron.  The product list is as follows:

  • GSR Growing Calcium purchased from Soil Works, LLC., in South Dakota.
  • Lumina - Amino Acid Foliar Fertilizer
  • Biomin® Iron | Complexed Nutrients | SaferGro.
  • Kalix OMRI Potassium
  • Nitroform Nitrogen

The nitrogen was purchased in case the potassium to nitrogen ratio needed to be addressed on the nitrogen side. 

Soil tests were completed to determine the amount of potassium or nitrogen needed.  Calcium was added because the test indicated the amount of plant available calcium may be limited.  All amendments were added except for nitrogen and Iron. OSP rules stated Iron could not be added unless the soil test indicated iron was needed.  There was some discussion with a soil scientist that the ratio of other soil nutrients may be impacting iron uptake.  Symptoms on the beans were indicative of that.

All amendments were applied based on manufacturer recommendations by mixing with water and applied with a hand sprayer.

Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and the gourd were planted into a weed fabric.  Other crops were planted into rows.  The oats was planted using a grain drill. The crops are certified organic. 

Research results and discussion:

The results are in the Excel table below and in the Media files.  The results focus on the brix levels which are combined as an average.  Results were measured using a refractometer.  Color coding was used to identify the treatment in the media file.  The last column is the no treatment area.  Blank cells indicate no data due reasons including: an area of the field flooded, crop failure, and excessive growth resulting in the inability to locate flags.


Other important data to note in the spreadsheet include that there was no visible differences in the various crops.  There are notable differences in brix levels.  The flavor of the lettuce using amino acid was notably different than other treatments.  The most notable differences in brix levels between no treatment and a treatment were in the carrots, sweet corn, and tomatoes.  The calcium application had the highest brix reading in carrots.  The amino acid resulted in the highest brix reading in sweet corn.  Adjusting the potassium to nitrogen ratio resulted in the highest brix reading in tomatoes. 

Different treatments applied to different crops resulted in a variety of results. The 2023 crop year also had ample precipitation. 

To answer how the results compared with results of previous years, the researcher indicates no data from previous years. 

It is important to note there was not grasshopper damage in 2023. The grasshoppers were present

Participation Summary
2 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

1 Consultations
1 On-farm demonstrations
1 Tours
1 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

38 Farmers participated
7 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

The results of this project was communicated through a field tour held in September 2023 in the field.  A few of the crops had their brix levels tested so attendees could learn how to test brix and learn about the amendments applied.  Attendees were also handed the results on paper.  15 people attended the field tour. 

Attendees could test the brix themselves if they wanted.

The results were also communicated on January 26, 2024 during an 8:30AM presentation at the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society Annual Conference in Aberdeen, SD.  The room was almost filled and an estimated 30 attendees.  A PowerPoint presentation was created for this event.

Future plans include publishing an article concerning this project in The Germinator.

Learning Outcomes

18 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Lessons Learned:

The project illustrates the importance of soil health’s impact on plants.  This project also illustrates that different crops are impacted differently by different soil amendments.  One of the barriers to overcome was to effectively raise brix levels in plants. 

There is a brix chart with many of the crops grown for this project, excluding a few.  The chart provides a basis for a goal. 

Something to consider in the future based on this project will be what amendments had the greatest impact on what crop.  For example, calcium had the greatest impact on carrots compared to the other amendments.  Calcium also prevented rot on the tomatoes. 

This project did overcome the identified barrier of raising brix levels.  There was no grasshopper damage.

Advantages to this project include the ability to experiment on a small scale with results that can be applied on a much larger scale.  A major disadvantage is some OMRI listed products still have restrictions. 

My advice to other farmers and ranchers is to focus on raising brix levels every year.  It is imperative to focus on brix levels following a drought, because the second or third year after a drought is when grasshoppers are most likely to appear. 

Project Outcomes

2 New working collaborations
Success stories:

A local farmer attending the field tour shared his experience testing brix and how he has improved his crops.

Several farmers from both North and South Dakota attending the presentation at NPSAS shared their frustrations concerning grasshoppers and how they might incorporate this research into their operation because of the negative impacts of grasshoppers.  A Montana farmer shared his experiences on what he did to mitigate grasshopper damage and how what this project included is related.


My first recommendation is a continuation of this project.  Another recommendation is to identify biology in the soil and how that may impact the nutrient uptake of plants.  My recommendations for future research include mixing all amendments together and see if the result is any different.

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.