Researchers at Iowa State University are hoping to help soybean growers save millions of dollars by eliminating the use of insecticides to control aphids. I.S.U. professor of entomology Bryony Bonning says the soybean aphid was first discovered in the United States in 2000.
“In Iowa, it’s been a particular problem in the last few years,” Bonning said. “Of course, having to purchase the insectide and it’s usually applied by spray plane…it’s very costly and takes away from the profits of the growers.” The annual cost to prevent yield loss with insecticides is estimated at 64-million dollars for Iowa soybean growers. The ISU research involves genetically modified soybeans that would carry in-plant protection from aphids. Similar transgenic technology is used to protect corn, cotton and other crops from disease and pests.
But, Bonning says those plants use toxins that are derived from a bacterium to offer protection. The process in soybean plants, to target aphids, is a bit more complicated. Bonning says they’re working to introduce a gene into soybeans that’s harmless to mammals, but creates a toxin that’s lethal to aphids feeding on the plant. It may be a decade or more before the new research reaches Iowa soybean fields.
“Once the technology is adopted by industry, they have to go through some fairly rigorous tests as required by the Environmental Protection Agency to make sure it is safe for non-target organisms,” Bonning said. “I’m guessing it might be 10 years before a transgenic might be commercially available.”
The research at Iowa State University is being financed by a grant from the Grow Iowa Values Fund, a state program designed to support development of new technologies. The ISU team is working with researchers at Pioneer Hi-Bred on the project.