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Soybean aphids remain threat for growers

Agriculture.com Staff 11/03/2010 @ 9:39am

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.

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