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Major Pest and Resistant: Redbanded Stink Bug Is Soybean Problem

Aug 25, 2015 04:33 PM EDT
Redbanded Stink Bug
The redbanded stink bug is having increasingly severe effects on soybean plant growth in Texas. As it becomes resistant to common insecticides, farmers seek alternative methods for protecting their crops and their economy.
(Photo : Photo courtesy of Dr. Mo Way, Texas A&M AgriLife Research-Beaumont)

Soybeans are a major crop in the U.S., ranking second-largest after corn and valued at $37.6 billion for 2011. Stink bugs have always been a problem for soybean farmers. However, when researchers got a whiff of the redbanded stink bug in southeast Texas, they were able to narrow down the problem. 

"The redbanded stink bug has been a serious pest of soybeans in South America since the 1960s," Dr. Suhas Vyavhare, a postdoc at Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Beaumont, said in a statement. "It was never a problem in the United States until around 2000. Prior to that, it was known to be in the soybean fields, but that's when it was first reported in Louisiana as being an economic pest."

However, according to Dr. Mo Way, an entomologist at the Beaumont center, the southeast Texas area showed that 65% of pests affecting soybeans were redbanded stink bugs. Those bugs would be affecting the 200,000 acres of soybeans that are planted by Texas farmers each year, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service figures it, according to the statement. 

However, that's not all they found. Researchers also discovered that the redbanded stink bug was becoming resistant to the organophosphate chemical previously used for pest control, and that the bug was responsible for delayed maturity syndrome, in which soybean plants don't grow at a normal rate. To come to this conclusion, they subjected a controlled growth of soybeans to different densities of redbanded stink bugs and found a direct correlation.

"We started by looking at population dynamics, or how abundant redbanded stink bug is in Texas," Vyavhare explained in a release. "We did sweep net surveys across various commercial soybean fields in southeast Texas. We also looked at insect-plant interaction in order to determine what soybean growth stages are most susceptible to redbanded stink bug damage so we could target pest management practices."

Discovering that the insects' resistance to insecticides is becoming greater and that more frequent doses are required in order to control the damage they cause was a major point of their study, which was recently published in the journal Environmental Entomology.

"There are more than 50 species of stink bugs found in soybeans. Some of them are beneficial and some are pests," Vyavhare said in the statement. "The redbanded stink bug as compared to the other pest stink bugs is smaller, and it has the ability to fly faster. So it is very agile, and that contributes to its movement into different areas, and it could be one of the reasons why it is not that susceptible to insecticides because when a farmer sprays the field, they could be escaping before the chemical reaches them."

The researchers suggest that farmers take alternative preventative methods, and use different products, rather than the same insecticide repeatedly. "So that could reduce the amount of insecticide that is applied. Even if we can reduce the need for one insecticide application, that could save millions of dollars in Texas and the other infected states each year," Vyavhare said, according to the release. 

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