Orange Wheat Blossom Midge can have a devastating impact on wheat yields and quality. In the spring of 2021 areas with midge forecasts (AB, SK, North Dakota) were all predicting higher than normal wheat midge populations. Data also showed very low parasitism in the midge populations (less control on the midge larvae means the potential for higher midge pressure). The addition of spring rains created the potential for a perfect storm for a major midge outbreak on the Prairies.
To create awareness and supplement data available, a midge emergence and tracking study was developed. The goal was to increase awareness of the potential impact and ultimately the control of the pest.
SeCan teamed up with Dr. Tyler Wist, Entomologist from AAFC Saskatoon, to track midge emergence across western Canada. Midge pheromone traps were distributed to volunteers across the Prairies (seed growers, independent agronomists, as well as SeCan staff). Traps were placed in wheat fields, and insect counts were done twice a week for a month and entered remotely into Google sheets – so everyone could immediately see counts from other areas. Participants used WhatsApp to chat with each other, share photos and ask questions in real time regarding the timing and level of midge pressure. The project became a hands-on learning experience led by Dr. Wist.
Ultimately 67 fields were monitored – with results showing midge in all traps with an average count of 50 – some traps had very low numbers, while others were as high as 1350 midge per count. The emergence rates will be correlated with rainfall data to help improve prediction models for the future.
The take-home message for many was the complexity of monitoring an insect that can come in multiple flushes, and the efficiency and convenience of growing midge tolerant wheat as an effective, sustainable, and environmentally friendly solution to a pest that has plagued wheat growers for decades.
Based on the success (and keen interest of participants) a sequel is planned … stay tuned for Midge Busters II coming in 2022.
For more information, visit secan.com.