In the north central United States, populations of the exotic soybean aphid, Aphis glycines Matsumura (Hemiptera: Aphididae), are highly variable across space, complicating effective aphid management. In this study we examined relationships of plant nutrients, landscape structure, and natural enemies with soybean aphid abundance across Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, representing the range of conditions where soybean aphid outbreaks have occurred since its introduction. We sampled soybean aphid and its natural enemies, quantified vegetation land cover and measured soybean nutrients (potassium [K] and nitrogen [N]) in 26 soybean sites in 2005 and 2006. Multiple regression models found that aphid abundance was negatively associated with leaf K content in 2005, whereas it was negatively associated with habitat diversity (Simpsons index) and positively associated with leaf N content in 2006. These variables accounted for 25 and 27% of aphid variability in 2005 and 2006, respectively, suggesting that other sources of variability are also important. In addition, K content of soybean plants decreased with increasing prevalence of corn-soybean cropland in 2005, suggesting that landscapes that have a high intensification of agriculture (as indexed by increasing corn and soybean) are more likely to have higher aphid numbers. Soybean aphid natural enemies, 26 species of predators and parasitoids, was positively related to aphid abundance; however, enemy-to-aphid abundance ratios were inversely related to aphid density, suggesting that soybean aphids are able to escape control by resident natural enemies. Overall, soybean aphid abundance was most associated with soybean leaf chemistry and landscape heterogeneity. Agronomic options that can ameliorate K deficiency and maintaining heterogeneity in the landscape may reduce aphid risk.
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