We compared infestation levels of cereal aphids (Homoptera: Aphididae) in spring-seeded wheat and barley grown with and without preplant tillage for 8 site yr in eastern South Dakota. Crop residue covered ≈25% of the soil surface with preplant tillage, whereas without preplant tillage 50% or more of surface residue was conserved. Rhopalosiphum padi (L.) comprised nearly 90% of all cereal aphids sampled, and R. maidis (Fitch), Schizaphis graminum (Rondani), and Sitobion avenae (F.) collectively comprised the remainder. R. padi routinely infested lower parts of tillers and were generally concealed by surface residue in plots with no preplant tillage. Across 7 site yr, R. padi were more abundant in plots with no preplant tillage than with preplant tillage (272.6 ± 54.4 versus 170.1 ± 37.2 aphid days per 25 tillers). However, in comparisons at individual site years, R. padi were greater in no-preplant tillage plots only once. For all cereal-aphid species combined, infestations were greater in plots with no preplant tillage for 1 of 8 site yr, but did not differ with tillage when compared across all site years. Cereal aphids were never more abundant in plots with preplant tillage. Our results show that conservation tillage leads to greater infestations of R. padi in spring small grains, as increased surface residue provides a favorable microhabitat for this aphid.
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