Promoting Sustainable Biological Control of the Soybean Aphid by Examining the Effect of Biodiversity on Releases of the Parasitoid Wasp Aphelinus glycinis

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2013: $178,558.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Dr. George Heimpel
University of Minnesota

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: soybeans
  • Additional Plants: herbs, native plants, trees


  • Crop Production: biological inoculants, continuous cropping, double cropping, multiple cropping
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Energy: bioenergy and biofuels
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
  • Pest Management: biological control, cultural control, integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, organic agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Our goals are to provide an effective pest control option for organic soybean growers and
    to reduce insecticide inputs in conventional and reduced input soybean production by releasing a
    biological control agent of the soybean aphid. This research will identify favorable conditions for
    release and establishment of the Asian parasitoid wasp Aphelinus glycinis, a biological control
    agent recently approved for release by the USDA (APHIS-PPQ). These goals will be met by
    addressing the following objectives: 1) Determine if biodiversity adjacent to soybean fields
    improves establishment of A. glycinis; 2) Quantify the biological control impact that A. glycinis
    has on soybean aphid populations; 3) Delineate how diversity-provided resources, such as nectar,
    are utilized by A. glycinis; 4) Collaborate with organic growers to conduct on-farm and farmerassisted
    field releases and evaluations of A. glycinis control of soybean aphid.

    Objectives 1-3 will be conducted in experimental fields that include bioenergy crop
    treatments: willow, prairie polycultures, alley (willows plus prairie), and soybean (control) plots
    nested within 10-acre soybean fields in southeastern Minnesota. To achieve Objective 1, A.
    glycinis will be reared in the laboratory and released during the summer of 2014. The abundance
    of adult parasitoids and parasitized aphids will be monitored throughout the growing season and
    over-wintering success will be assessed the following summer. For Objective 2, the biological
    control impact of A. glycinis on soybean aphids will be quantified following the parasitoid
    releases using field cages. Objective 3 will be completed by conducting biochemical tests on
    field-collected adult parasitoids to screen for the presence of sugars in the insects’ gut and
    hemolymph. Finally, Objective 4 will be conducted during the summers of 2015 and 2016 by
    working in partnership with organic growers to identify cropping schemes and select on-farm
    release sites to maximize natural enemy establishment based on the results from Objectives 1-3.
    Success of parasitoid establishment and biological control of soybean aphids will also be
    monitored on organic farms following A. glycinis releases.

    This project will lead to improved protocols for establishment of A. glycinis, as well as
    parasitoids released in other cropping systems. The project will also yield peer-reviewed and
    extension publications, plus presentations at research and extension conferences, field days, and
    workshops for growers. Sustainable biological control of soybean aphid would lead to increased
    profitability, decreased exposure to insecticides, and therefore increased quality of life for

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The short-term outcomes of this project will include several pieces of knowledge based
    on research conducted, including: 1) whether biodiversity adjacent to soybean fields improves
    establishment of the parasitoid wasp Aphelinus glycinis; 2) a quantitative measure of the
    biological control impact that A. glycinis has on soybean aphid populations in areas where it has
    been released; and 3) an understanding of how diversity-provided resources, such as nectar, are
    utilized by A. glycinis. Additionally, a valuable outcome will be collaboration with growers to
    conduct on-farm field releases of A. glycinis on organic farms, thereby introducing an alternative
    pest control method and fostering grower-researcher relationships.

    One intermediate outcome will be an increased knowledge and awareness within the
    farming community of importation biological control and how best to incorporate this strategy
    within integrated pest management schemes. Farmers will also further understand the role that
    parasitoids play in agroecosystems and be able to recognize parasitized aphids in the field. As a
    result of this farmer-researcher partnership, the project will also yield improved protocols for the
    release and establishment of A. glycinis, as well as other biological control agents, which will be
    beneficial for future pest control efforts.

    Finally, the primary long-term outcome will be the establishment and widespread
    availability of a sustainable soybean aphid control option for soybean growers, which is currently
    an un-met need in Minnesota and the surrounding North Central Region. This research would
    also be some of the very first field-based work with Aphelinus glycinis in North America,
    representing a novel and timely contribution to efforts to control soybean aphid, a damaging pest
    found in all 12 states in SARE’s North Central Region.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.