Montana

Jul 6, 2012 8:55 PM by Katy Harris - MTN News

Wheat damaging midge insect in full force this year

CRESTON - Some Flathead Valley spring wheat farmers lost 100 percent yield on their crops to the Orange Wheat Blossom Midge infestation in 2006, and it looks like the midge insect is back in full force again this year.

The midges are about half the size of a mosquito, but they can take out an entire crop of spring wheat.

Agronomists at the Montana State University agricultural center are finding the midge in huge numbers across the valley.

The insect can damage developing wheat kernels and increase the chances of fungal infections.

Agronomist Bob Stougaard said some farmers didn't bother to try harvesting because the damage was so bad.

Stougaard says he's found over 450 midges in one evening.

Last spring, the Flathead Valley saw a high amount of moisture that bred large midge populations, which is why the numbers are high again this year. Wheat fields that are 50 to 70 percent headed are at the vulnerable stage to be attacked by the midge.

Wheat farmers should be scouting their fields from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. If fields have reached an economic threshold of 1 midge per 4 to 5 heads of wheat, it may be time to spray an insecticide or treatment.

"It really pays to go out and scout these fields now to make sure you don't let the insect take all that work away," Stougaard said.

Wheat farmers can breathe a sigh of relief if their fields are already pollinated before the midge take over. If white flakes, called
anthers, appear on the plant, it's pollinated.

Stougaard said windy conditions and cooler evenings like the valley's been seeing recently could decrease the amount of midge egg laying on spring
wheat.

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