Wheat growers need to monitor crops closely for signs of orange wheat blossom midge, as the pest has made an earlier than usual appearance in southern and eastern crops, agronomists have warned.

Suffolk-based Brian Ross saw the first midge in the bottom of crops on Monday (21 May). “If the weather stays mild and still, we could see a lot more by the end of the week.”

The early appearance of the pest was a particular concern given that many wheat crops were coming out in ear “far too early” [crops at mid-ear emergence (GS53–57) are particularly vulnerable].

Agrovista’s Swaran Bachoo said pupation had taken place in parts of Hampshire, as he saw the first midge take flight last weekend (19 May). “We’ve had three to four inches of rain and the weather’s warming up, so there’s a good chance there could be many more about by the end of this week.”

He advised growers to monitor wheat crops at dusk on still evenings when the midge will be making flights.

“On farms where there has been a history of midge problem then use two pheremone traps per field. 20 midges per trap over 2-3 nights is the required threshold.”

Further advice on controlling the pest can be found on the Home Grown Cereals Authority website, or keep track of what’s going on in the field with FWi’s weekly Crop Watch reports.