Managing Soybean Insect Pests

Soybeans are a major crop in the U.S., where they are grown in 31 states and account for 35% of the world’s production. Specialty soybean production is also a growing, profitable market. Specialty soybeans are sought for traits such as high protein or improved flavor and texture in the case of tofu and edamame. Furthermore, soybeans are the most-produced legume in the U.S. organic industry, which has grown 20% or more annually since 2002. Given the large acreage and wide distribution of soybeans, insect pests are an increasing problem. Insect pests hinder soybean growth, quality, and yield and elevate risks to human health and the environment. This damage is costly. In just Mississippi alone, insect pests caused estimated losses of $20.33 million per year from 2004 to 2010. Pest infestations also raise the cost of soybean production by dramatically increasing chemical insecticide use. The distributions and impacts of many soybean pests (such as soybean aphids, bean leaf beetle, and stink bugs) are increasing as a result of expanding soybean production, changes in cropping practices, and/or global climate change. Farmers are also encountering new insect pest problems that they have never seen or managed before. As pest problems evolve, richer, more up-to-date knowledge of these pests is needed in addition to new or modified thresholds, scouting practices, and control methods. Although insecticides are often the go-to tools for dealing with insect pest problems, sustainable long-term solutions must include pest-resistant soybean plants and biological control. Furthermore, these solutions must be effective for soybeans in many different growth stages and planting systems.

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