Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
A Hi-Line farmer is bringing word to Havre Monday of a push to end a major problem for Montana farmers the sawfly. “This year we had over $200 million in losses to sawfly in Montana ,” Kurt Kamerzall said. “I’d like to tell the growers that if we don’t make a stand and we don’t let the people know what a big problem this is, we’ll be in the same boat five or ten years from now.” A meeting to discuss the Sawfly Research Foundation will be held Monday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. in the Hill County Electric Hospitality Room west of Havre. Meetings about the foundation were conducted by Kamerzall in Chester and Fort Benton last week. Kamerzall, a Chester-area farmer, started the foundation to push for additional funding to research the pest, which eats through the stem of hollowstemmed wheat and some solid-stemmed varieties and can cause the wheat to blow over and lodge. That makes harvesting the wheat difficult even impossible. He is looking for producer support for the foundation to help fund a researcher or multiple researchers to find ways to reduce the damage sawflies cause to Montana farmers, Kamerzall said. Patty Denke of the state Department of Agriculture said sawflies can be a major problem, depending on the conditions each year. While the lodged wheat can sometimes be harvested, usually by raking it into windrows and then harvesting, if the damage is severe enough or the conditions won’t work for setting the combine low to pick up the windrows, the farmers might just abandon it, she said. “They often have to go so close to the ground it’s just impractical,” Denke said. Kamerzall, who said he studied sawflies extensively while working on his thesis on Russian wheat aphids for his master’s degree in entomology from Montana State University in Bozeman, said he thinks more can be done. While the standard practice is to plant solid- stem wheat which is more resistant to sawflies, the solidstem varieties typically have a much lower yield, he said. What Kamerzall wants to see is Montana State University increase its research on the issue. Now the university has one full-time entomologist and two plant breeders who spend part of their time researching sawflies, he said. “I’ve set up a sawfly research foundation its to ramp up sawfly research efforts at Montana State,” he said. Kamerzall said he wants to use the money from the foundation directly and through using it to find other funds, including state funding to hire a full-time molecular biologist- geneticist to research resistances to sawflies and to breed them into high-producing strains of wheat. His desire is to have producers pay $1 an acre to help fund the foundation, including on a multi-year payment plan as low as 25 cents an acre for four years. He added that, with increased input costs and the drop in the value of wheat, that might be difficult. He said the foundation is off to a good start already, and will be recruiting more support in Havre as well as discussing many good agronomic practices. “If we can get a little money out of every producer out there we can make this happen, we can easily make this happen,” Kamerzall said.