For farmers who are cynical and we tend to be a cynical bunch sometimes, this will sound like a money grab. Three new wheat midge tolerant wheat varieties will be commercially available starting next spring. Farmers interested in planting a midge tolerant variety will be required to sign a stewardship agreement that limits farm-saved seed to one generation past certified seed. While that may sound like a system to extract more money from farmers through certified seed sales, there’s actually a very important reason for limiting the use of farm-saved seed. The varieties are being sold as a blend which contains 90 per cent of the midge tolerant variety and 10 per cent of a regular midge susceptible variety. This is called a refuge. The system is based on a single gene. The interspersed refuge works to prevent the build-up of wheat midge that are tolerant to the trait. This is expected to extend the life of the system from as little as 10 years to 90 years or longer. If farmers keep using their own seed, the level of the susceptible variety will keep dropping and soon there will be little or no refuge to prevent the midge from becoming tolerant. Farmer money through the Western Grains Research Foundation helped to develop these new varieties so that farmers in wheat midge areas wouldn’t have to spray for the pest. To explain the science involved, a new website was recently launched at I’m Kevin Hursh.