Project Details:

Title:
Cold Hardiness of Soybean Gall Midge : Foundations for Pest Forecasting and Cultural Control

Parent Project: This is the first year of this project.
Checkoff Organization:Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council
Categories:Insects and pests
Organization Project Code:10-15-44-22008
Project Year:2022
Lead Principal Investigator:Robert Koch (University of Minnesota)
Co-Principal Investigators:
Bruce Potter (University of Minnesota)
Keywords: Pest Forecasting, soybean gall midge, soybean pests

Contributing Organizations

Funding Institutions

Information and Results

Click a section heading to display its contents.

Project Summary

This project specifically addresses a priority item listed under the category of Soybean Pest Management in the FY2022 request for proposals: ”Soybean farmers need continued research into cultural, chemical and biological control mechanisms for management of soybean insects including, but not limited to, soybean aphid, Japanese beetle and soybean gall midge.”
Soybean gall midge, Resseliella maxima, is a new devastating pest of soybean in the Midwest (Gagné et al. 2019). Soybean gall midge larvae feed inside the stems of soybean plants near the soil surface (McMechan et al. 2021). Infestations cause wilting, lodging and death of soybean plants, and have resulted in significant yield reductions (McMechan et al. 2021). Currently, this pest is known to occur in Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, and Missouri (McMechan et al. 2021). In Minnesota, this pest has already been detected in at least 29 counties in the south and west (soybeangallmidge.org) and it may continue to spread to other areas.
Cold winter temperatures are an important factor, among several, limiting the geographic range and population sizes of insects in temperate regions like Minnesota (Bale 1996). Infestations by soybean gall midge have been more severe in Nebraska than in Minnesota, and more severe in southern Minnesota than in northern Minnesota. It remains unknown what role cold winter temperatures in northern areas may be playing in limiting populations of this pest. Understanding how a new pest like soybean gall midge responds to cold temperatures is foundational information for understanding its pest potential and for developing pest management programs.
The ability of organisms to survive exposure to cold temperatures is referred to as their cold hardiness. Because the soybean gall midge is such a new pest, there is no knowledge about its cold hardiness, and therefore we are limited in our abilities to predict how widespread it may become in Minnesota and to predict spring populations based on winter temperatures. These types of information have proven important for the management of other crop pests (e.g., corn earworm, bean leaf beetle, etc.).
Like related species of gall midges (e.g., the raspberry gall midge (Nilsson 2008)), soybean gall midge larvae drop from the soybean plants in fall and enter the soil where they construct cocoons. The larvae spend the winter in these cocoons, often in the upper two inches of the soil surface. In spring, as soil temperatures rise, the larvae develop into pupae and then adults, which emerge to restart the life cycle. During the winter months, the larvae must survive extended periods of low temperatures (often around freezing) and occasionally extremely low temperatures.
The cold hardiness of insects is often evaluated by quantification of their supercooling points and lower- lethal temperatures (Sinclair et al. 2015). The supercooling point of an insect is the temperature at which the liquids in its body begin to freeze. Because of freeze-protective chemicals in insect bodies, the temperature at which insects freeze is often below the freezing point of water, hence the term “super”cooling. The lower-lethal temperature is the temperature at which the insect actually dies from cold exposure. By characterizing both the supercooling point and lower-lethal temperature of an insect, an understanding can be gained about the insect’s strategies for cold hardiness.
By acquiring an understanding of the cold hardiness of soybean gall midge, actionable models will be developed to predict the potential geographic range of the pest and levels of survival of the pest from one year to the next. Furthermore, this information will guide development of recommendations for cultural tactics (e.g., tillage, residue management, etc.) that could increase winter mortality of soybean gall midge and result in decreased pest populations.
We are proposing this as the first year of a three-year project to characterize the cold hardiness of soybean gall midge and develop actionable models and recommendations for its management. Our team at the University of Minnesota has extensive experience evaluating the cold hardiness of numerous insect pests and using that information to develop recommendations for farmers and land managers. We will collaborate with Dr. Robert Venette (USDA Forest Service/University of Minnesota) who has state-of-the-art equipment for assessing cold hardiness and considerable technical expertise in this area. This area of research is not being addressed by any of the Midwest researchers working on soybean gall midge; therefore, this project would not duplicate any existing efforts. Furthermore, this proposal has not been submitted to this or any other funding entity.
References:
Bale, JS. 1996. Insect cold hardiness: a matter of life and death. Eur J Entomol 93:369-382.
Gagné, RJ, et al. 2019. A new pest species of Resseliella (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae) on soybean (Fabaceae) in North America with a description of the genus. Proc Entomol Soc Wash 121:168-177.
McMechan, J, et al. 2021. Soybean gall midge (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae), a new species causing injury to soybean in the United States. J Integ Pest Manag 12:1-8.
Nilsson, T. 2008. Raspberry cane midge (Resseliella theobaldi (Barnes)) biology, control methods and monitoring. Master’s Thesis. Swedish Univ Agric Sci 29 pp.
Sinclair, BJ, et al. 2015. An invitation to measure insect cold tolerance: methods, approaches, and workflow. J. Therm. Biol. 53: 180–197.

Project Objectives

1. GOAL : Characterize the cold hardiness of soybean gall midge

OBJECTIVE : Determine if soybean gall midge larvae acclimate to winter conditions by changing cold hardiness over the growing season

OBJECTIVE : Quantify the cold hardiness of fall-collected soybean gall midge larvae that would experience winter conditions

2. GOAL : Incorporate this knowledge of soybean gall midge cold hardiness into management programs

OBJECTIVE : Develop actionable models to estimate winter mortality of soybean gall midge

Project Deliverables

This project will provide several important deliverables that will advance soybean gall midge management in Minnesota. This project will produce foundational knowledge on the effects of cold temperatures on soybean gall midge survival. This knowledge will improve the general understanding of the biology of this pest. Furthermore, this knowledge on the cold hardiness of soybean gall midge will be used in advanced modeling procedures to predict of the potential northward expansion of this pest and year-to-year changes in population size. A very tangible project deliverable resulting from this work will be high-quality maps showing the potential geographic range of soybean gall midge in the Midwest and annual maps that will show predicted mortality induced by the previous winter’s cold temperatures.
These maps will be housed on the UMN Extension website and made widely available to farmers and the agricultural community through our extension programming (see communication plan above) and through the communication channels of Minnesota Soybean. Finally, this project will facilitate training of a graduate student in Entomology, who will gain expertise in pest ecology and integrated pest management.

Determine if soybean gall midge larvae acclimate to winter conditions by changing cold hardiness over the growing season:

Soybean stems infested with soybean gall midge larvae will be collected every 2-3 weeks from fields of a cooperating farmer from June until larvae are no longer present in the stems (September-October). The stems from each collection date will be brought to a laboratory and placed into emergence cages maintained at “summer” conditions (warm temperatures and long day length) to allow the larvae to complete development and drop to the soil substrate within the cages. After the mature larvae construct their cocoons in the soil substrate, they will be collected from the soil substrate and tested for cold hardiness. Two laboratory assays will be used to assess cold hardiness. First, the supercooling points (i.e., temperature at which the body fluids freeze) will be measured. A subset of the larvae collected from the emergence cages will be attached to small thermocouples and placed in glass vials inside a cooling bath. The thermocouples will record the temperature of the larvae as the cooling bath cools at a slow and constant rate of about 1°C per minute. With this methodology, the supercooling point is visualized as a sudden increase in temperature (release of energy) caused when the liquids in the bodies freeze. To complement the supercooling point data, the lower-lethal temperatures of the larvae will also be measured. A subset of the larvae collected from the emergence cages will be randomly assigned to different targeted low temperatures. The cooling bath described above, will be used to cool the larvae to the targeted low temperatures. After reaching the targeted temperatures, the larvae will be removed and placed into Petri dishes for assessment of survival. By collecting data on the supercooling points and lower-lethal temperatures over the growing season, we will be able to determine if the soybean gall midge acclimates to winter conditions by changing its cold hardiness as winter approaches.

Quantify the cold hardiness of fall-collected soybean gall midge larvae that would experience winter conditions:

Similar to the experiment described above, soybean stems infested with soybean gall midge larvae will be collected about every 2 weeks from fields of a cooperating farmer, but for this experiment the collections will occur from September to October. The stems will be brought to a laboratory and placed into emergence cages maintained under “fall” conditions (moderate temperature and moderate day length) in a growth chamber to allow the larvae to complete development and drop to the soil substrate within the cages. The cages will then be transferred to a growth chamber at “winter” conditions (low temperature and short day length). Then, at monthly intervals throughout the winter, larvae will be collected from the soil substrate and their cold hardiness measured using the laboratory assays for supercooling points and lower-lethal temperatures.

Develop actionable models to estimate winter mortality of soybean gall midge:

Based on previous research, we know the proportion of the soybean gall midge population spending the winter at different depths in the soil. To predict winter mortality, the cold hardiness data collected in the above mentioned experiments need to be compared to actual temperatures experienced at those depths in soybean fields. Utilizing the network of Research and Outreach Centers of the U of MN, we will monitor soil temperatures in soybean fields over the winter at Lamberton, Morris, Crookston, Rosemount and Waseca. Data loggers will be deployed in two fields at each location to record soil temperatures soil depths of 0.5, 2 and 4 inches, which will span the likely depths at which soybean gall midge spends the winter. These temperature data will be used to inform modeling efforts for predicting the winter survival of soybean gall midge.

Communication plan:

Results of this research will be disseminated through a multi-media outreach effort. Koch, Potter and Hanson have formal extension responsibilities and interact with growers and agricultural professionals (crop consultants, industry and agency staff, etc.). We can leverage Extension’s large, integrated outreach system, which is well-suited for the distribution of agricultural information, forecasting for pests based on weather and climate data. An example is field days held at research and outreach centers, at which we will present results of this research. Furthermore, results of the project proposed here will be delivered at agricultural professional and producer meetings during winter months, and published on Extension’s crop news blog. In particular, we will communicate project results through Minnesota Soybean communication program events such as Ag-Expo, the MN Soybean tent at Farmfest, the MN Soybean Booth at Big Iron and/or Minnesota Soybean Minne-Line articles. Research results will be presented at scientific conferences and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, which will provide scientific validity to the research.

Progress of Work

Updated August 25, 2022:
Proposal title: Cold hardiness of soybean gall midge: Foundations for pest forecasting and cultural control
Reporting period: 1 May 2022 to 30 July 2022

Proposal Objectives & Goal Statements:
Characterize the cold hardiness of soybean gall midge and incorporate this knowledge into management programs through the following objectives:
1. Determine if soybean gall midge larvae acclimate to winter conditions by changing cold hardiness over the growing season
2. Quantify the cold hardiness of fall-collected soybean gall midge larvae that would experience winter conditions
3. Develop actionable models to estimate winter mortality of soybean gall midge

Specific project achievements during this reporting period:
Goal 1Good progress is being made toward this goal. A graduate student has been hired to work on this project. We identified a field in Rock County, MN with an adequate infestation of soybean gall midge (SGM) for our research. This field is being visited every two weeks to collect infested soybean stems. In the laboratory, some stems are being dissected to obtain SGM larvae. Other stems are being placed into different kinds of cages to obtain adults and to try to obtain cocoons with third instar larvae or pupae. We have performed several successful runs of supercooling point measurements (the temperatures at which the insects are freezing) for mature larvae and for adults. We have performed at least one run of supercooling point measurements for SGM pupae. This work is ongoing and will progress with multiple measurements through the summer.
Goal 2: Work on this goal will begin in fall.
Goal 3: Work on this goal has not started. It depends upon completion of other goals.

Challenges encountered
It has been difficult to get rear the insect to third instar larvae (and pupae) in cocoons, but through lots of exploratory work, we are beginning to make some progress with this.

Dissemination of data/information during this reporting period
Results of this research and relevant information will be disseminated in presentations and print.

Updated November 20, 2022:
Reporting period: 1 August 2022 to 31 October 2022

Proposal Objectives & Goal Statements:
Characterize the cold hardiness of soybean gall midge and incorporate this knowledge into management programs through the following objectives:
1. Determine if soybean gall midge larvae acclimate to winter conditions by changing cold hardiness over the growing season
2. Quantify the cold hardiness of fall-collected soybean gall midge larvae that would experience winter conditions
3. Develop actionable models to estimate winter mortality of soybean gall midge

Specific project achievements during this reporting period:
Goal 1: Good progress is being made toward this goal. Every two weeks, we sampled an SGM-infested field in Rock County, MN. On each sample date, we collected infested soybean stems. In the laboratory, some stems were dissected to obtain SGM larvae. Other stems were placed into rearing cages to obtain pupae and adults. Over the season, multiple measures of larval and adult supercooling points (temperatures at which they freeze) were recorded. Fewer measurements were made on pupae. Analysis of these results is underway and should show how the supercooling points differ between the life stages and change over the season. Using excess adults produced in these efforts, we conducted a complementary experiment to examine the longevity of SGM adults with exposure to water and a sugar source. The results of the experiment suggest that longevity is increased when SGM adults are provided water or a honey:water solution compared to those provided nothing.

Goal 2: Methods were developed to successfully obtain third instar larvae of SGM in cocoons. This is the life stage of this pest that is known to overwinter. At the end of the growing season, infested soybean stems were collected and dissected as described in Goal 1. The SGM larvae were then maintained under the conditions we identified to produce the overwintering stage. The supercooling point (temperature at which they freeze) and lethal temperature (temperature at which they die after short-term exposure) were measured for a subset of this population. Then, the remainder of the population was split and assigned to one of two different simulated winter conditions (short daylength and two different low temperatures). These individuals are being held at these conditions and subsets of individuals will be removed to measure supercooling points and lethal temperatures after one and two months. The results will be analyzed to compare if these measures of cold hardiness change after exposure to the simulated winter conditions and if measurements after exposure to the two different conditions differ from one another.

Goal 3: Work on this goal has not started. It depends upon completion of other goals.

Challenges encountered
I am happy to report that through lots of hard work, we were able to overcome the previously reported challenge and can now readily produce third instar SGM larvae in cocoons, which is the relevant overwintering stage.

Dissemination of data/information during this reporting period
Results of this research and relevant information will be disseminated in extension presentations over the winter months. The results of the adult longevity experiment were presented at the national meeting of the Entomological Society of America in November 2022.

Updated February 24, 2023:
Proposal title: Cold hardiness of soybean gall midge: Foundations for pest forecasting and cultural control
Reporting period: 1 November 2022 to 31 January 2023

Proposal Objectives & Goal Statements:
Characterize the cold hardiness of soybean gall midge and incorporate this knowledge into management programs through the following objectives:
1. Determine if soybean gall midge larvae acclimate to winter conditions by changing cold hardiness over the growing season
2. Quantify the cold hardiness of fall-collected soybean gall midge larvae that would experience winter conditions
3. Develop actionable models to estimate winter mortality of soybean gall midge
Specific project achievements during this reporting period:

Goal 1: As described in the previous report, multiple measures of larval and adult supercooling points (temperatures at which they freeze) were recorded over the growing season. In addition, we performed some preliminary longevity experiment with excess adult insects from this work.

Goal 2: Methods were developed to successfully obtain third instar larvae of SGM in cocoons, which is the known overwintering stage for this insect. We then, split these cocoons into four different overwintering regimes of 1 or 2 month at 3 or 13 degrees Celsius. Supercooling points and lethal temperatures were recorded for insects from each regime. On average across regimes, the supercooling points (freezing points) were around -25 degrees Celsius. In the lethal temperature experiment, insects were cooled to -10, -15, -20, -25 or -30 degrees C (with additional insects maintained at room temperature as a control). Survival decreased greatly between -20 and -25 degrees C. Data from this experiment are currently being more formally analyzed. In addition, to put these values into perspective, soil temperature data are being acquired for a depth where the overwintering larvae are known to occur.

Goal 3: Work on this goal has not started. It depends upon completion of other goals.

Challenges encountered
No problems occurred during this period

Dissemination of data/information during this reporting period
Results of this research and relevant information have been disseminated in extension presentations over the winter months (Crop Pest Management Short Course, Research Updates for Ag. Professionals, Best of the Best, Advanced Crop Advisor Workshop). In addition, the results will be shared with other scientists at the meeting of the North Central Branch of the Entomological Society of America in April 2023.

Updated May 18, 2023:
Proposal title: Cold hardiness of soybean gall midge: Foundations for pest forecasting and cultural control

Reporting period: 1 February 2023 to 30 April 2023

Proposal Objectives & Goal Statements:
Characterize the cold hardiness of soybean gall midge and incorporate this knowledge into management programs through the following objectives:
1. Determine if soybean gall midge larvae acclimate to winter conditions by changing cold hardiness over the growing season
2. Quantify the cold hardiness of fall-collected soybean gall midge larvae that would experience winter conditions
3. Develop actionable models to estimate winter mortality of soybean gall midge

Specific project achievements during this reporting period:

Goal 1: As described in a previous report, multiple measures of larval and adult supercooling points (temperatures at which they freeze) were recorded over the growing season. Analyses of these data suggested a possible trend for an increase in freezing point as the season progresses. This could be due to changes in host quality as the infested plants deteriorate over time. In addition, we performed some preliminary longevity experiment with excess adult insects from this work.

Goal 2: As mentioned in a previous report, we developed methods to successfully “trick” filed-collected larvae to develop into the overwintering stage (third instar larvae in cocoons). We then subjected these cocoons to four different acclimation regimes (simulated fall/winter conditions: 1 or 2 month at 3 or 13 degrees Celsius with short day length) and measured their coldhardiness through assessment of their freezing points and lethal temperatures. On average across regimes, the supercooling points (freezing points) were around -25 degrees Celsius. In the lethal temperature experiment, insects were cooled to -10, -15, -20, -25 or -30 degrees C (with additional insects maintained at room temperature as a control) and immediately rewarmed to assess survival. This experiment assess survival after an acute (short term) exposure to cold. Survival decreased greatly between -20 and -25 degrees C. In year two of this project, we will repeat the above mentioned research and try to add a component to look at longer term exposure to temperatures.

Goal 3: When we compared these critical temperatures (-20 and -25 degrees C) to soil temperatures experienced across a south-north gradient in Minnesota, we found it to be very unlikely that soil temperatures would reach these critical values.

Challenges encountered
No problems occurred during this period

Dissemination of data/information during this reporting period

Scientific presentations:
-Anderson, P., R. Venette, B.D. Potter and R.L. Koch. 2023, April. Initial assessment of cold tolerance of soybean gall midge. 10-minute presentation. Meeting of the North Central and Soutwestern Branches of the Entomological Society of America. Oklahoma City, OK.

Extension presentations:
-Koch, R.L. 2023, March. Soybean insects update: soybean aphid, soybean gall midge and soybean tentiform leafminer. Minnesota Winter Region Conference, Winfield United. Mankato, MN (60-minute talk with 200 attendees)
-Anderson, P., R. Venette, B. Potter, A. Hanson and R.L. Koch. 2023, February. Initial research into cold tolerance of soybean gall midge. 2023 Midwest Soybean Gall Midge Discussion Series (7-minute presentation with 230 attendees)
-Koch, R.L. 2023, February. Biology & Management of new pests of soybean. Advanced Crop Advisors Workshop, Fargo, ND. (45-minute co-presentation with 46 attendees)
-Koch, R.L. 2023, February. Mortality factors affecting soybean gall midge: predators, parasitic wasps and cold. Best of the Best. University of Minnesota Extension and North Dakota State University Extension. (30-minute talk; Grand Forks, ND: 170 attendees; Moorhead, MN: 132 attendees).
-Anderson, P., B.D. Potter, A. Hanson and R.L. Koch. 2023, January. Cold tolerance of soybean gall midge. Poster presentation. Minnesota Ag Expo, Mankato, MN
-Koch, RL. 2023, January. Updates on the status and management of new insect pests of soybean. Research Updates for Agricultural Professionals, Institute for Agricultural Professionals, University of Minnesota Extension. (45-minute presentation; Lamberton: 20 attendees [co-presented by B. Potter]; Morris: 29 attendees; Willmar: 32 attendees)
-Koch, R.L. 2022, December. Soybean gall midge update. Crop Pest Management Short Course. Minnesota Crop Production Retailers and University of Minnesota Extension. Minneapolis, MN (two 50-minute talks with 8 and 9 attendees).

Final Project Results

Updated May 18, 2023:
Proposal title: Cold hardiness of soybean gall midge: Foundations for pest forecasting and cultural control

Reporting period: 1 February 2023 to 30 April 2023

Proposal Objectives & Goal Statements:
Characterize the cold hardiness of soybean gall midge and incorporate this knowledge into management programs through the following objectives:
1. Determine if soybean gall midge larvae acclimate to winter conditions by changing cold hardiness over the growing season
2. Quantify the cold hardiness of fall-collected soybean gall midge larvae that would experience winter conditions
3. Develop actionable models to estimate winter mortality of soybean gall midge

Specific project achievements during this reporting period:

Goal 1: As described in a previous report, multiple measures of larval and adult supercooling points (temperatures at which they freeze) were recorded over the growing season. Analyses of these data suggested a possible trend for an increase in freezing point as the season progresses. This could be due to changes in host quality as the infested plants deteriorate over time. In addition, we performed some preliminary longevity experiment with excess adult insects from this work.

Goal 2: As mentioned in a previous report, we developed methods to successfully “trick” filed-collected larvae to develop into the overwintering stage (third instar larvae in cocoons). We then subjected these cocoons to four different acclimation regimes (simulated fall/winter conditions: 1 or 2 month at 3 or 13 degrees Celsius with short day length) and measured their coldhardiness through assessment of their freezing points and lethal temperatures. On average across regimes, the supercooling points (freezing points) were around -25 degrees Celsius. In the lethal temperature experiment, insects were cooled to -10, -15, -20, -25 or -30 degrees C (with additional insects maintained at room temperature as a control) and immediately rewarmed to assess survival. This experiment assess survival after an acute (short term) exposure to cold. Survival decreased greatly between -20 and -25 degrees C. In year two of this project, we will repeat the above mentioned research and try to add a component to look at longer term exposure to temperatures.

Goal 3: When we compared these critical temperatures (-20 and -25 degrees C) to soil temperatures experienced across a south-north gradient in Minnesota, we found it to be very unlikely that soil temperatures would reach these critical values.

Challenges encountered
No problems occurred during this period

Dissemination of data/information during this reporting period

Scientific presentations:
-Anderson, P., R. Venette, B.D. Potter and R.L. Koch. 2023, April. Initial assessment of cold tolerance of soybean gall midge. 10-minute presentation. Meeting of the North Central and Soutwestern Branches of the Entomological Society of America. Oklahoma City, OK.

Extension presentations:
-Koch, R.L. 2023, March. Soybean insects update: soybean aphid, soybean gall midge and soybean tentiform leafminer. Minnesota Winter Region Conference, Winfield United. Mankato, MN (60-minute talk with 200 attendees)
-Anderson, P., R. Venette, B. Potter, A. Hanson and R.L. Koch. 2023, February. Initial research into cold tolerance of soybean gall midge. 2023 Midwest Soybean Gall Midge Discussion Series (7-minute presentation with 230 attendees)
-Koch, R.L. 2023, February. Biology & Management of new pests of soybean. Advanced Crop Advisors Workshop, Fargo, ND. (45-minute co-presentation with 46 attendees)
-Koch, R.L. 2023, February. Mortality factors affecting soybean gall midge: predators, parasitic wasps and cold. Best of the Best. University of Minnesota Extension and North Dakota State University Extension. (30-minute talk; Grand Forks, ND: 170 attendees; Moorhead, MN: 132 attendees).
-Anderson, P., B.D. Potter, A. Hanson and R.L. Koch. 2023, January. Cold tolerance of soybean gall midge. Poster presentation. Minnesota Ag Expo, Mankato, MN
-Koch, RL. 2023, January. Updates on the status and management of new insect pests of soybean. Research Updates for Agricultural Professionals, Institute for Agricultural Professionals, University of Minnesota Extension. (45-minute presentation; Lamberton: 20 attendees [co-presented by B. Potter]; Morris: 29 attendees; Willmar: 32 attendees)
-Koch, R.L. 2022, December. Soybean gall midge update. Crop Pest Management Short Course. Minnesota Crop Production Retailers and University of Minnesota Extension. Minneapolis, MN (two 50-minute talks with 8 and 9 attendees).

ONE-PAGE PROJECT DESCRIPTION (May 2023)

Cold hardiness of soybean gall midge: Foundations for pest forecasting and cultural control
Robert Koch, Bruce Potter and Anthony Hanson (University of Minnesota)

Soybean gall midge is a new devastating pest of soybean in the Midwest. Infestations cause wilting, lodging and death of soybean plants, and have resulted in significant yield reductions. Currently, this pest is known to occur in Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, and Missouri.

Cold winter temperatures are an important factor, among several, limiting the spread and population growth of insects in northern states, like Minnesota. Infestations by soybean gall midge have been more severe in Nebraska than in Minnesota. It remains unknown what role cold winter temperatures in northern areas may be playing in limiting populations of this pest. Understanding how a new pest like soybean gall midge responds to cold temperatures is foundational information for understanding its pest potential and for developing pest management programs. The ability of organisms to survive exposure to cold temperatures is referred to as their cold hardiness. Because the soybean gall midge is such a new pest, there is no knowledge about its cold hardiness, and therefore we are limited in our abilities to predict how widespread it may become in Minnesota and to predict spring populations based on winter temperatures.

Research performed in 2022 was successful for development of methods for assessing the cold hardiness of this pest. The main focus of the project was on late-season cold hardiness, which is more relevant to real-world overwintering survival of a pest. An exciting first outcome of this work is that we developed methods to successfully “trick” filed-collected larvae to develop into the overwintering stage (third instar larvae in cocoons). We then subjected these cocoons to four different acclimation regimes (simulated fall/winter conditions: 1 or 2 month at 3 or 13 degrees Celsius with short day length) and measured their cold hardiness through assessment of their freezing points and lethal temperatures. On average across regimes, the super-cooling points (freezing points) were around -25 degrees Celsius. In the lethal temperature experiment, insects were cooled to -10, -15, -20, -25 or -30 degrees C (with additional insects maintained at room temperature as a control) and immediately rewarmed to assess survival. This experiment assess survival after an acute (short term) exposure to cold. Survival decreased greatly between -20 and -25 degrees C. A question remained about what temperatures the pest could experience in the soil under the snow in winter months. Therefore, we compared these critical temperatures (-20 and -25 degrees C) to soil temperatures experienced across a south-north gradient in Minnesota. We found it to be very unlikely that soil temperatures would reach these critical values, suggesting that winter temperatures might not impact the survival of this pest. In year two of this project, we will repeat the above mentioned research and try to add a component to look at longer term exposure to cold temperatures, which is more relevant to what insects experience in the field.

Benefit to Soybean Farmers

Soybean gall midge is a new pest that poses a significant threat to soybean production. Currently, farmers in Minnesota do not know how widespread this pest will become nor how the pest population might change from one year to the next. This limits ability to prepare for and respond to the pest.
Investment in this project will enable us to provide research-based forecasting to inform farmers about their risk for this pest. More specifically, we will clarify which regions of Minnesota are at more or less risk for establishment and impacts of soybean gall midge. In addition, we will provide forecasts about the impact of winter on the coming year’s pest infestation. This information will be important for helping farmers determine if and what actions to take against soybean gall midge. Furthermore, but understanding how cold affects the survival of this insect, recommendations for cultural control (e.g., tillage or residue management) could be developed to increase winter mortality of the pest.

Indirectly, the proposed work rearing this insect in the laboratory should advance our abilities for maintaining year-round colonies of this insect. To date, no researchers in the Midwest have been able to successfully maintain such laboratory colonies of this pest. Having the ability of produce soybean gall midge in the laboratory year-round would advance all aspects of soybean gall midge research and greatly increase the rate at which management recommendation are being developed to help farmers protect their crop from this pest.

Performance Metrics

This project has a high likelihood for success. The methods we proposed for collecting and rearing soybean gall midge larvae have been used successfully for a current project related to biological control. The methods we proposed for assessing cold hardiness have been used successfully by our team for a range of insects, including other tiny insects and soil-inhabiting insects. The methods we proposed for modeling and mapping have been used for several other crop pests.

This project will have several key quantifiable performance metrics directly relevant to the proposed objectives. The first metric is the number of samples collected (i.e., infested soybean stems collected from the field and the number of soybean gall midge larvae reared from those stems). The second metric is the number of soybean gall midge larvae subjected to the cold hardiness assays. The third metric is the number of fields from which winter temperatures are recorded. The fourth metric is the quality of the maps produced showing the potential geographic range of soybean gall midge in the Midwest and annual maps that will show predicted mortality induced by the previous winter’s cold temperatures. The fifth metric will be the number of direct and indirect contacts made with farmers and the agricultural community through our extension programming.

Project Years