Evaluations of individually collected wheat heads and whole plants indicated that several factors may influence the efficacy of aerial sprays against the wheat midge, Sitodiplosis mosellana (Géhin). These factors related to methods of assessing midge damage, condition of wheat heads during spraying, and methods of spray application. Location- and distribution-related influences also were important.
Efficacy assessments were based on reductions in midge larvae, midge-damaged kernels, and percentage kernel damage. The latter data were confounded by differences in kernel numbers within wheat heads. In head and plant samples, sprays were more effective at reducing numbers of midge larvae than reducing the incidence of midge-damaged kernels. Evaluations of individual heads overestimated the efficacy of sprays in whole plants which contained one primary and two tiller heads. Sprays provided more effective midge control and kernel protection in the primary heads, which emerged before spraying, than tiller heads, which emerged mainly after spraying. Protection was usually better in apical than basal regions of each head type. In whole plants, efficacy declined as tillering increased.
Plant evaluations indicated that the high-volume (37.4 L water per hectare) chlorpyrifos spray provided the best midge control and kernel protection (95% and 87%, respectively), followed by the low-volume (18.7 L water per hectare) chlorpyrifos spray (87% and 76%, respectively), and low-volume dimethoate spray (66% and 53%, respectively). When improvements in both yield and grade were considered and calculations based on 1987/1988 wheat prices, net returns from the three aerial sprays ranged from $62 to $113 Canadian per hectare. Long-term benefits of the sprays probably were less favourable. Reduction in wheat midge after spraying would negate the benefits of an egg–larval parasite, Pirene penetrans (Kirby), which was present in low numbers.