The provincial government’s wheat midge forecast for 2021 shows an increase in wheat midge risk in central Alberta.
Areas west and south of Edmonton have also seen individual fields with midge numbers at levels of concern as far south as Starland County, which is east of Olds.
The area east of Edmonton has developed into a “high risk” situation, according to the provincial government.
“Producers in that area should be considering midge tolerant wheat and other integrated pest management strategies to minimize this risk,” the government said on its website.
“Wheat midge in both areas will remain a concern in individual fields, especially if there is late seeding and higher than average rainfall in the spring.”
Kevin Bender, who farms west of Sylvan Lake, said wheat midge hasn’t “had a big impact” west of Highway 2.
“I don’t know about other areas (in central Alberta) and if they’ve had issues with it. But I haven’t heard about any real problems nearby here,” he said.
Bender said he has friends in Saskatchewan who have more experience dealing with wheat midge.
“I’m not an expert on wheat midge because we haven’t had an issue with them … but I know guys who have to spray for them. It’s an added cost and you’re using an insecticide, which is generally more toxic than herbicides or fungicides,” he said.
The population of wheat midge remains low in southern Alberta.
Over the past several years, the field-to-field variation has been considerable throughout the province. Individual fields throughout Alberta may have economic levels of midge.
Each producer needs to assess their risk based on indicators specific to their farm. Specifically, producers should pay attention to midge downgrading in their wheat samples and use this as an indication of midge risk in their fields.
The 2020 fall survey included wheat growing areas throughout Alberta. In total, 311 samples were taken from 64 counties. The survey involves taking soil samples from wheat fields after harvest using a standard soil probe.
Larval cocoons are washed out of the soil using a specialized series of screens. Larvae are counted, and then dissected to determine parasitism levels in the midge.