Decreasing environmental impacts of soybean aphid management


Researcher Robert Koch collects samples from a soybean field

Project phases

Phase 1

Project information

Research project title: Decreasing environmental impacts of soybean aphid management

Taxa: Invertebrate

Species: Soybean aphid (Aphis glycines)

Project status: Completed in 2021

Funding: $570,000


The number of soybean acres treated with broad-spectrum insecticides has increased 140-fold since the invasion of the soybean aphid in 2011. Growers are requesting more economically and environmentally efficient options to protect their yield.

Pest-resistant crop lines offer one alternative to heavy spraying. At least nine soybean aphid-resistance genes have been identified to date, but few of today’s commercially available resistant varieties are suitable for Minnesota growing conditions. This project will close that gap for local growers by developing a selection of soybean aphid-resistant lines appropriate for our state.

Researchers will also focus on lowering the burden of pest scouting for growers with the use of new drone technology. The time-intensive nature of traditional pest scouting has led some growers to bypass it, applying broad-spectrum insecticides preventively regardless of aphid density. Fortunately, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) show promise as a more convenient option for estimating pest damage and insect counts across a field. The ability to quickly gather this information will help farmers apply insecticides on a truly as-needed basis, reducing cost, environmental impact and risk of chemical resistance.

Research questions

  • Can we develop aphid-resistant soybean varieties that are adapted to Minnesota growing conditions?
  • How can we use UAV’s to estimate where and how abundant soybean aphids are in a field?

Practical implications

This work will help growers reduce their annual insecticide use by improving prevention and treatment of the soybean aphid. It will develop Minnesota-specific, aphid-resistant soybean lines and evaluate the use of UAV’s (drones) to quickly scout for aphids prior to insecticide application.

Phase 2

Project information

Research project title: Confronting soybean aphid with advanced plant breeding and remote sensing

Taxa: Invertebrate

Species: Soybean aphid (Aphis glycines)

Project status: In progress

Funding: $295,593


The soybean aphid (Aphis glycines) is the most significant insect pest of soybean production, especially in Minnesota. Soybean farmers currently protect against soybean aphids with insecticides, which threaten the economic and environmental sustainability of soybean production. This research will directly serve the agricultural community of Minnesota by advancing the development of aphid-resistant soybean cultivars and improving remote sensing technologies to locate damaging levels of soybean aphids. The resulting decreases in insecticide inputs will reduce adverse economic and environmental impacts of soybean aphid management.

Research questions

  • How can we expand the diversity of aphid-resistant cultivars available to growers? 
  • How can we advance remote sensing for soybean aphid?

Practical implications

Soybean breeding efforts will advance pyramided aphid-resistant soybean lines currently in the breeding pipeline and develop new pyramided lines with known and novel sources of resistance. In addition, aphid resistance will be expanded into food-type soybean germplasm. 

This project will advance remote sensing for soybean aphid by taking our patent-pending tool for decision-making about insecticide applications for soybean aphid to a broadly applicable, satellite-based platform. This tool could be used to prioritize fields for ground- or drone-based scouting, or enable decision making for individual fields.


During the first phase of this project, researchers developed an aphid-resistant variety of soybean that is now commercially available. In addition, the team advanced the ability to use remote sensing for soybean aphid including building hardware to host new algorithms for autopilots for accurate and safe pest management missions.

This work helps farmers prevent soybean aphid outbreaks through the use of aphid-resistant soybean and to more effectively respond to outbreaks through efficient drone-based scouting.

The work during the first phase also led to the detection of a new soybean pest, Macrosaccus morrisella.

Phase 2 of the project is ongoing.


News and media

Research team

Robert Koch | principal investigator

Aaron Lorenz | co-investigator

David Mulla | collaborator

Ian MacRae | collaborator

Demoz Gebre Egziabher | co-investigator

Theresa Cira | post-doctoral associate

Siddhi Bhusa | post-doctoral associate


Collaborating organizations

Sentera Inc.

Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (a portion of this project is jointly funded by the council)