Update: Team Aphid begins field tests
The winter 2007 issue of Source told the story of University of Minnesota's Team Aphid and its mission to reduce the $200 million in damage soybean aphids inflict on Minnesota farms each year. Government approval to field test the ability of the aphid's natural enemy—a stingless wasp known as B. communis—to safely destroy soybean aphids arrived this spring after six years of research and extensive testing.
Team Aphid has begun testing in grower fields and at research and outreach centers throughout the state. Regional Extension educators, campus-based researchers and Extension specialists, soybean growers, and Minnesota Department of Agriculture scientists are part of the team taking the research from the laboratory to the field.
Dave Nicolai usually spends summers providing research-based information on when to treat fields for soybean aphids, non-native insects that originated in China that damage soybeans and soybean yields. This summer the Extension educator helped researchers find soybean fields to test the potential of a beneficial insect to control soybean aphids. Binodoxys communis, a minute (1/25-inch) stingless wasp, is the first soybean aphid enemy to pass the extensive government review required for field testing.
Scientists hope this tiny insect will restore the balance that was first upset when soybean aphids appeared in Minnesota soybean fields in 2000. Soybean aphids thrive in U.S. fields, yet are tough to find in China. "We imported the soybean aphid without any of its natural enemies, organisms that keep aphids in check in China," said Dave Ragsdale, University of Minnesota Extension entomologist. "Our researchers and Extension experts are working to re-establish that check-and-balance system in Minnesota."