Ohio scientists gearing up to fight destructive aphids

By Nicholas Zeman | October 14, 2009
Posted November 11, 2009

Researchers in Ohio, a traditional soybean production stronghold, have been doing work to fight off an enemy of one of the state's major cash crops. With funding from USDA, Ohio State University's Agricultural Research and Development Center and the Ohio Soybean Council are part of an aggressive program to fight aphid infection.

Also known as plant lice, aphids rapidly reproduce and live on sap from host plants. "These insects deform or kill plants and invite other worrisome insects to infected cropland because of their honeydew secretions," said the Ohio Soybean Council. "Aphids can also be infected with fungi, viruses and bacteria to further damage crops, and have the potential to greatly impact Ohio's 26,000 soybean farmers and their multifaceted industry valued at $1.9 billion."

Through genetic modification platforms, OSU researchers are developing a new aphid resistant soya variety that simultaneously addresses the specifics of Ohio's climate; Ohio experienced an increase in the aphid population this last summer. Researchers scouted Ohio farmland in August to assess pest damage and to collect aphid samples for further testing. "Understanding aphid traffic patterns will assist researchers in formulating resistant varieties," OSC stated.

Aphids first appeared in Ohio in 2001-buckthorn, a common shrub found throughout the state, has been identified as the pest's overwintering host. Additionally, scientists are noticing a change in the usual two-year cycle of high-low aphid populations, the reasons for which are puzzling. "At this time we have to admit we don't know," said Ron Hammond, an entomologist at OSU. "We will recommend that farmers maintain extra vigilance next summer until we see trends in what the aphid population is doing."
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