Hot and dry autumn boosts pest population in Hungary

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As much as city dwellers have enjoyed the extended Indian summer in Hungary this year, farmers are less than happy with the warm and dry weather.

On top of the difficulty of sowing in hard dry land, the proliferation of pests is their second biggest headache these days, conservative daily Magyar Nemzet writes.

With Hungary already breaking a number of temperature records this autumn and suffering with almost no rain since August, the common vole has had ideal conditions to proliferate. In most years, the regular arrival of precipitation in the autumn mostly takes care of the problem by flooding their underground lairs, but this year the dry soil boosted their numbers to levels not seen in the past six years.

Ferenc Ledó, president of the Hungarian fruits and vegetables association known as FruitVeB, told Magyar Nemzet that the passing of the fruit season has left rodents searching for food. With few other options for nutrition, the voles often resort to eating the roots of trees and vines.

Traditional orchards with large and old trees usually survive such onslaughts without major problems, but modern plantations with smaller trees and less developed roots can suffer damage that can seriously impact next year’s crop.

In previous years, rodents caused no significant problems, and as a consequence, authorities banned the use of pesticides to control their populations. Now, farmers must apply for permission to use these chemicals and wait for approval. 

Bugs such as the summer chafer (Amphimallon solstitiale) and the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys), a recently-arrived invasive species from Asia, are also problematic.

Currently, there are no known pesticides to fight either pest. The marmorated stink bug is a particularly major issue in the wine regions of Hungary due to its pungent odor. Just a handful of these bugs in a batch of freshly-pressed grapes can render hundreds of liters of wine undrinkable. 

Title image: Common vole (Microtus arvalis). (source: Wikipedia)

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