FARGO - Area farmers will show less mercy than usual to pests in their fields this spring and summer.

Record high prices for their crops give more economic incentive to use chemicals that fight weeds, insects and crop disease.

"Producers will no longer be reluctant to apply relatively costly pesticides," said Andrew Thostenson, pesticide program specialist with the North Dakota State University Extension Service.

In the past, the value of the crops saved by pesticides often didn't justify the cost of buying and applying them.

That's changed.

An example:

An acre of wheat grosses $175 if it produces 50 bushels that each are sold for $3.50.

Reducing loss to weeds, insects or disease by, say 10 percent, would save the farmer $17.50 an acre - probably not enough to warrant using pesticides.

An acre of wheat grosses $350 per acre if it produces 50 bushels that each are sold for $7.

Reducing loss by 10 percent would save $35 an acre - possibly enough to warrant using pesticides.

The cost of pesticide has risen, but not nearly as much as the increase in crop prices.

Al Holleman, of Agassiz Seed and Supply in West Fargo and president of the North Dakota Agricultural Association trade group, estimated that the price of most pesticides has risen 5 percent or less from a year ago.

Area farmers will begin planting in the next week or so, weather permitting, and will apply chemicals this spring and summer.

Weather and crop conditions can vary greatly from one year to the next, making it impossible to predict what pesticides might be in high demand this growing season, said Joe Killoran of Maple Valley Ag in Tower City, N.D.

Even so, both farmers and applicators should realize the importance of advance planning, Thostenson said.

Farmers will need to understand that customer applicators may be very busy and unable to accept a job, he said.

Thostenson also warned farmers to be wary of fly-by-night operators with little or no experience.

He advised applicators not to promise too much to potential customers and to consider turning down jobs that involve too much risk or give people unrealistic expectations.

"Producers and custom applicators will be under intense pressure, which could lead to short tempers. Be mindful of this and exercise extreme prudence when interacting with people," Thostenson said.