A group of University of Georgia researchers are working to develop soybean varieties resistant to the invasive kudzu bug.
Although the bugs don’t damage soybeans every season, they can cause yield losses of between 20 and 60 percent during peak populations.
“I think we’re going to have to think of the kudzu bug as a cyclical pest, like the soybean aphid,” says Adam Bray, a recent doctoral graduate from the UGA Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. “Populations have died down, but we want to be ready if they do come back.”
Working with UGA molecular plant breeder Wayne Parrott, Bray examined 30 Asian land races that Midwest colleagues identified as resistant to soybean aphid. These races were used across Asia, home to the kudzu bug, because of their resilience and productivity.
Through field and laboratory testing, Bray narrowed it to two varieties that make it impossible for immature nymphs to mature.
Now the search is on to identify the genes responsible for that resistance.
First confirmed in Georgia in 2009, kudzu bugs feed on kudzu. But they’ll also jump to other legumes, including soybeans.
Since the initial find, kudzu bugs have spread and are now found throughout much of the South and Mid-South.