Despite evidence for biological control in North America, outbreaks of the invasive soybean aphid, Aphis glycines Matsumura (Hemiptera: Aphididae), continue to occur on soybean (Glycine max L. Merr.). Our objectives were to determine whether natural enemies delay aphid establishment and limit subsequent population growth and whether biological control can be improved by altering the within-field habitat. We hypothesized that a living mulch would increase the abundance of the aphidophagous community in soybean and suppress A. glycines establishment and population growth. We measured natural enemy and A. glycines abundance in soybean grown with and without an alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) living mulch. Soybean grown with an alfalfa living mulch had 45% more natural enemies and experienced a delay in A. glycines establishment that resulted in lower peak populations. From our experiments, we concluded that the current natural enemy community in Iowa can delay A. glycines establishment, and an increase in aphidophagous predator abundance lowered the rate of A. glycines population growth preventing economic populations (i.e., below the current economic threshold) from occurring. Incorporation of a living mulch had an unexpected impact on A. glycines population growth, lowering the aphids’ intrinsic rate of growth, thus providing a bottom-up suppression of A. glycines. We suggest future studies of living mulches or cover crops for A. glycines management should address both potential sources of suppression. Furthermore, our experience suggests that more consistent biological control of A. glycines may be possible with even partial resistance that slows but does not prevent reproduction.
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