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Soybean aphids remain threat for growers

While 2010 was not a
significant year for aphid infestation, that doesn't mean growers can or should
ignore this yield-robbing pest in 2011, say experts from Pioneer Hi-Bred, a
DuPont business. 

After 2009 presented a very
widespread, severe year for aphid infestation, the 2010 growing season was more
limited, with only pockets of serious aphid problems, largely in Minnesota.

That said, researchers like
Jessie Alt don't see the problem lessening.

"There's no crystal
ball, but aphids have gone from being an every-other-year threat to becoming a
challenge every season," says Alt, Pioneer research scientist. "So
the probability is high that aphids will be an issue again in 2011."

As growers consider seed
selection for next season, Pioneer experts suggest growers leverage antibiosis
ratings and select soybean varieties with native tolerance as the first line of
defense. Antibiosis refers to natural characteristics that discourage aphids
from feeding and reproducing, and it provides some general protection from all
biotypes. Pioneer is one of the few companies that provides aphid antibiosis
ratings, which range from exceptional (E) and above average (AA) to average (A)
and below average (BA). 
          

Antibiosis evaluations also
help growers prioritize scouting, as well as determine if and when insecticide
treatment is necessary. For example, if there is an aphid outbreak, growers can
concentrate on the fields with below-average ratings and save the above-average
field for later in the process. This approach continues to be one of the best
defenses against aphid damage.

At the same time, Pioneer
researchers continue to look for new and improved opportunities to battle the
aphid problem. Moving forward, growers likely will see continued improvements
in the area of soybean aphid antibiosis as well as resistant varieties.

For example, researchers
have been conducting controlled screenings and developing stronger antibiosis
properties in soybean varieties. These research efforts include on-farm product
advancement trials, with the Rag1 gene showing very good performance regarding
aphid resistance. There also is a great deal of interest in existing and novel
resistant genes and lines, including stacking genes to create an even higher
level of native resistance. 

At the same time, aphid
resistance isn't the only thing on researchers' minds.

"Pioneer has been very
focused on creating an option for growers that provides aphid resistance, and
also includes benefits in terms of yield, drought tolerance, etc.," Alt
says. "It's about delivering a total package to growers that not only
addresses the aphid issue, but also meets other agronomic needs." 

If everything continues as
anticipated in terms of the research advancements, Alt expects Pioneer to have
new aphid-resistant products available to growers in 2011 for use during the
2012 planting season.

Also, insecticide seed
treatments, like the Pioneer Premium Seed Treatment offering of Trilex®,
Allegiance® and Gaucho®, can help reduce feeding damage caused by soybean
aphids.

In the meantime, growers
should continue to be proactive in their approach to aphid management.
"While our research into aphid antibiosis and resistance continues,
scouting early and often can be key to helping control this devastating
pest," Alt says.

By Jerry Harrington, Pioneer
Hi-Bred

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